Rajasthan still tense as Gujjar agitation continues

May 26th, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by admin  

Jaipur, May 26 (IANS) Rajasthan remained tense Monday as the agitation by Gujjars, which has claimed 37 lives already, continued to disrupt rail and road traffic in the state. The Gujjars are demanding inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes list so that they get better education and job opportunities.

“The government is planning to send a delegation from Jaipur to talk to Gujjar leaders about the situation. The delegation would be headed by Industry Minister Digambar Singh,” a source said.

Meanwhile, the state government has beefed up security measures following a call for shutdown by Gujjars in some of the smaller towns in the state.

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 - were 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 laying siege on a 2-3 kilometre stretch of the railway track. Sources said the food supply to the protestors was being cut.

In Sikandra too, over 300 Gujjars along with six dead bodies blocked the national highway connecting Jaipur and Agra.

Army and paramilitary forces were patrolling Bharatpur, Dausa, Sawai Madhopur and Karauli districts to curb violence as agitators damaged buses, vandalised government property, and blocked roads and rail tracks.

Seventeen people, including a policeman, were killed Friday when the Gujjars launched a rail blockade at Bayana.

Rajasthan Home Secretary V.S. Singh had said police opened fire after a mob of Gujjars shot a policeman in the leg and tried to damage government property.

“We have information of eight deaths in Bayana Friday, while another 14 were killed in Sikandra Saturday,” Singh had told IANS.

He said Gujjars were claiming they had six bodies in Sikandra and another nine in Bayana.

“Their claims are being verified. The state government is open to talks with Gujjar leaders and had invited Bainsla for talks with Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Sunday,” Singh said.

Officials said Raje flew to Bayana Sunday to take stock of the situation.

“She spoke to Bainsla on the phone and invited him for talks. But he refused to meet her,” an official said.

Bainsla Sunday said: “Talks can only be held after the state government sends a letter to the centre recommending that we be recognised as tribals.”

The Jaipur-Agra sector has been the worst hit by the agitation while movement on the Delhi-Mumbai sector has also been affected.

“Almost all the national highways are functional except for the Jaipur-Agra highway where a 20 to 30 km diversion has been made,” the home secretary said.

The state government has indicated that it will take severe action against those indulging in violence.

On Sunday, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje sent a 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.

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