Meenas distance themselves from Gujjar agitation, oppose reservation

June 1st, 2008 - 11:43 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Jasraj Chopra
By Sahil Makkar
Bayana (Rajasthan), June 1 (IANS) Unlike last year when the Meena community of Rajasthan had vehemently opposed and clashed with the Gujjars over the latter’s demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category, this year they have chosen to distance themselves but want to ensure that the Gujjars don’t get a share in their quota pie. Bayana (Rajasthan), June 1 (IANS) Unlike last year when the Meena community of Rajasthan had vehemently opposed and clashed with the Gujjars over the latter’s demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category, this year they have chosen to distance themselves but want to ensure that the Gujjars don’t get a share in their quota pie.

“We have decided not to interfere in the Gujjars’ protest this year. Last year, whatever happened was an unfortunate incident,” Kirori Singh Meena, the seniormost Meena leader, told IANS here, referring to the four lives lost in the Gujjar-Meena clashes.

“We have appealed to our community to maintain calm even if there is any sort of abusive provocation from the other side,” said Meena, a former food and civil supplies minister in the Rajasthan government.

“We (Gujjars and Meenas) should not fight with each other. We appeal to our Gujjar brothers to call off their stir and not to spread violence in the state. Last year, they lost 26 men, this year 39 of their men have been killed so far due to their leader Kirori Singh Bainsla’s obstinacy,” he added.

He said the Meenas wanted the agitation to end without further bloodshed. The Gujjars’ road and rail blockade agitation since May 23 has crippled life in Rajasthan and caused millions of rupees’ loss to the exchequer.

While the Gujjars have been classified as other backward classes (OBCs) in the state, they want to be included in the ST category like the Meenas and get a share of the quota pie. OBCs get 27 percent reservation and the STs 7.5 percent, but the perception is that the community will get a larger quota share with the ST status.

Last year, four men were killed and 20 injured when the stand-off between Gujjars and Meenas over ST status took a violent turn in Rajasthan’s Dausa and Karauli districts.

The violence erupted mainly because the Gujjars had chosen the Meena-dominated areas as their epicentre of protest. But this time, the Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (Gujjar pro-reservation front) has decided to hold the agitation in the belt of Gujjar-dominated areas of Bharatpur, around 150 km from the state capital.

Thousands of Gujjars, who belong to the traditional shepherd community, have been squatting on the railway tracks in Pilupura village in Bharatpur since May 23. They have intensified their agitation following the killings of 39 community members in the Bayana, Sikandra and Sawai Madhopur areas, mostly in police firings.

There seems to be no end to the stalemate between the Gujjars and the Vasundhara Raje-led state government.

Asked whether the Gujjars should be included in the ST category, Meena said: “We are of the same opinion as the Justice (Jasraj) Chopra committee. Everything should be according to the constitution.”

In December last year, the Justice Jasraj Chopra committee had rejected the demand by Gujjars of Rajasthan for inclusion in the ST category but suggested a special package to members of the community living in under-developed and remote areas of the state.

The committee was constituted by the state government on June 13 in compliance with the peace understanding signed between Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and representatives of the Gujjar pro-reservation front, led by its convenor Bainsla, on June 4.

Murari Lal Meena, legislator from Sikandra in Dausa district, feels that the Gujjars’ demand is unethical.

“Whatever the Rajasthan government does, it should be in accordance with the constitutional norms.”

However, Suresh Meena, another legislator, was in support of the Gujjars’ demands.

“They must get whatever they are demanding,” he told IANS.

Meena leaders, who spoke to IANS, in unison criticised the Vasundhara Raje government for allowing the Gujjar leaders to hold the city to ransom. They said the rail and road blockades should be removed peacefully without any further violence.

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