At around 8:30 pm, word came that the Meena community leaders wanted the hotel vacated, and immediately. It was the only hotel in this small Rajasthan town. The message was clear: get the hell out of here.
Journalists piled into their respective vehicles and set out in a convoy for Jaipur. A journey that should have taken us a couple of hours at best, ended early in the morning, as the sun broke through the horizon.
Leaving the hotel, their convoy entered a Meena village en route at about 9:00 pm. It was flagged down by an angry bunch. They wanted to know why a news channel had reported a gun battle between Meenas and Gujjars in Piplikheda. There had been no such battle, they said.
They wanted to identify the channel’s crew. The rest of the group could move on. The crew was very much part of the convoy. But the villagers were tricked into believing that they were not. The convoy was on the move again.
But it was not going to be an easy night. Every 10 minutes we were stopped. And then, at Sikandra Chowk, we ran into a large crowd of Gujjars.
Armed men on motorcycles drove alongside our convoy, shouting "Gujjar zindabad". Then, suddenly and without any provocation, they attacked the vehicles with stones and rods. The convoy hurriedly turned into a narrow lane in a bid to escape.
It was kuchcha road, flanked by fields on both sides. And there was an even bigger crowd of Gujjars waiting ahead. They fired in the air as some journalists got down from their vehicles in an effort to reason with them. Then they attacked the vehicles with iron rods.
A frenzied crowd in front, and another one behind. Desperate, we tried talking to the Gujjars again. Fortunately, some village elders now appeared, who seemed ready to listen. Actually, they did more than listen. They went up to the crowd and managed to get the blockade lifted.
The convoy hurried through.