Sachin Pilot, Congress MP from Dausa who is a Gujjar himself, says the Gujjar-Meena conflict in Rajasthan earlier this month was "politically motivated" and "once you politicise the issue....it spins out of control."
"Caste predominance and assertions are on the rise. It is not confined to just one set of people but exists in several communities and many sections of society, especially those who have lived on the fringes for long. The whole question of granting reservation begs a wider debate," Pilot said in an interview.
"The best course would be to provide reservations to such sections and look at all such demands without any political consideration and on a transparent basis. But once you politicise the issue and raise expectations, it spins out of control."
The Supreme Court has described the week-long protests by Gujjars in Rajasthan to demand Scheduled Tribe status as a "national shame" after they led to violence and severely affected life in the national capital region. But Pilot, who represents Rajasthan's Dausa constituency, describes peaceful dharna, demonstrations and strikes as "legitimate'' activities.
"Strikes, shutdowns and peaceful demonstrations are legitimate forms of protest. I consider the Supreme Court criticism of the agitation as unjustified," he said.
Pilot said he found it surprising that the apex court did not take cognisance of the fact that the police shot dead several unarmed protesters at the start of the stir.
The shutdown in Delhi last week called by thee Gujjars provoked the Suprem Court to act. "But that is not to say that (the protest) was justified," he said adding, "Indeed, it did create a problem for people."
Pilot was, however, quick to add that he held the Supreme Court in high esteem and did not want to seem disrespectful.
Asked to comment on reports that the rival Meena group was egged on to confront the protesting Gujjars by sections in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Rajasthan government, Pilot refused to specifically name anyone but expressed disappointment at those trying to create hostility between the two communities.
"The whole attempt to pit one community against another was politically motivated and was a very unfortunate thing to happen. There are hundreds and thousands of villages where Gujjars and Meenas have been living together in peace and fraternity for centuries," he said.
"It takes a very long time, sometimes decades, to cement such divides and a very concerted and sincere effort is required now."
For now, Pilot is devoting his energies to bring about a rapprochement between the Gujjars and the Meenas. "We have to work hard to bring about reconciliation and that is my first and biggest priority at the moment."