Rajasthan violence toll mounts to 35, Raje talks tough (Lead)

May 25th, 2008 - 8:23 pm ICT by admin  

Jaipur, May 25 (IANS) The toll in the Gujjars’ agitation in Rajasthan since it turned violent Friday mounted to 35. The community demanding Scheduled Tribe status Sunday rejected the government’s offer of talks but Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje warned its leaders not to test her patience. “Do not try to test my patience. We would not tolerate people taking law in their hands,” Raje told mediapersons.

“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 said.

Raje said stern action would be taken against those indulging in violence.

Later in the afternoon, Raje rushed to Bayana in Bharatpur district, over 170 km east of Jaipur, where she expected to hold talks with Col. (retd) K.L. Bainsla, leader of the Gujjar stir.

The Gujjar leader had spurned an offer of talks earlier in the day.

Rajasthan Home Minister G.C. Kataria said: “We are open to talks with Gujjar leaders and had invited Bainsla for talks today with the chief minister.

“So far, no one has turned up for talks. We do not have any official confirmation on their stand whether they will come for talks or not,” Kataria added.

Bainsla earlier rejected the offer for talks saying he could not leave the place where he was laying siege on a railway track with thousands of his supporters.

“I cannot go to Jaipur for talks. All we want is a recommendation letter by the state government to be sent to the central government for classifying us as tribals,” Bainsla said.

Rohit Mahajan, newly appointed superintendent of police of Bharatpur district, went to the site where the Gujjars were holding their siege. “I went there unarmed and talked to the community members there. The state government has already invited them for talks. I want this channel to open,” he said.

The situation continued to be tense in parts of the desert state of Rajasthan, with violent protests by ethnic Gujjar community demanding tribal status for better educational and job opportunities.

At least 35 people, including two policemen, have been killed in two days of the violent agitation.

Sixteen persons, including one policeman, were killed Friday when the community launched a rail blockade from Bayana.

Kataria said Sunday that at least 19 people were killed and over 20 people were injured in violent clashes between police and Gujjars in Sikandara in Dausa district, over 90 km from here, Saturday evening.

“We have information of 19 people, including a policeman, killed in Sikandara yesterday,” Kataria told IANS.

He said police opened fire after a mob of Gujjars shot a policeman in the legs and tried to damage government property.

The army and paramilitary forces have been called in to control violence in some places as agitators damaged public transport buses, vandalized government property, and blocked roads and rail tracks, bringing inter-city movement of people to a halt.

Kataria said a mob continued to block the Jaipur-Agra national highway in Sikandara and another group had laid siege to a railway track near Dhumaria hampering the movement of rail traffic on the important Delhi-Mumbai line.

The Gujjars, an ethnic group, are demanding that the community be included in the Scheduled Tribes list so that they get better education and job opportunities.

Gujjars, who belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), held protests all over Rajasthan from May 29 to June 4 last year, demanding Scheduled Tribes status. At least 26 people were killed in the violence then.

Meanwhile, reports of more violence came in from different parts of the state.

A public transport bus was torched near Kota and incidents of stone pelting were reported from other areas as a large number of women also joined the agitation.

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