Rajasthan government renews warning to agitating Gujjars (Lead)May 26th, 2008 - 6:48 pm ICT by admin
Jaipur, May 26 (IANS) The Rajasthan government Monday repeated its warning to agitating Gujjars who are demanding Scheduled Tribe status, telling them to stop their blockade of rail tracks. Otherwise, the authorities would be forced to “throw them out, and very many lives culd be lost”, the government said. Thirty-seven people have been killed, mostly in police firing on the Gujjars, since the agitation began Friday.
Addressing a press conference after a cabinet meeting to decide on the Gujjar issue that has paralysed the state, the state’s Home Minister G.C. Kataria said the hundreds of agitating Gujjars blocking a stretch of rail track in Bharatpur district should give up the protest blockade and “stop testing our patience”. “It will be our last resort to throw them out of the rail lines and very many lives could be lost.”
He also said that it had been decided that Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje would write to the prime minister requesting for a meeting of the states affected by similar Gujjar protests and come out with a policy on the Scheduled Tribe status demanded by the community.
Referring to a letter written to the central government last year when the Gujjar agitation first broke out, Kataria said: “We had sent a letter last year requesting the union government to give reservations to Gujjars under the denotified tribe status. We want the government to speed up a decision on the issue.”
The cabinet meeting was headed by the chief minister and was also attended by Parliamentary Affairs Minister R.S. Rathore and Health Minister Narpat Singh Rajvi.
Head of the Gujjar Sangharsh Aarakshan Samiti (Gujjar pro-reservation front) K.S. Bainsla and hundreds of his supporters - with some of the dead bodies of those killed in police firing - are squatting on the rail track near Dhumaria station, close to Bayana town in Bharatpur district, over 160 km east of state capital Jaipur.
Reports from Bayana said the army was closing in on the Gujjars who are laying siege on a 2-3 kilometre stretch of the railway track. Sources said the food supply to the protesters was being cut.
On Sunday, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had sent the first warning to the Gujjar leadership through the media. “Do not try to test my patience. We would not tolerate people taking law into their hands,” she said.
“Many anti-social elements and dacoits have joined this agitation. We would, under no circumstance, allow any one to resort to violence. I again request the Gujjars not to be swayed by those who are trying to do politics over dead bodies,” she added.
Gujjars, who belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), held protests all over Rajasthan from May 29 to June 4 last year, demanding Scheduled Tribe status. At least 26 people were killed in the violence then.