The Chopra Commission set up by the Rajasthan government has not recommended granting the state’s Gujjar community Scheduled Tribes status. But it has made several suggestions to bring the Gujjars into the national mainstream through measures to alleviate their poverty and backwardness.
May 2002: 10,000 Gujjars sit on dharna near Secretariat to raise ST demand
November 2003: BJP leaders, including VasundharaRaje, campaigning for assembly polls promise ST status to Gujjars
May 28, 2007: Gujjars block national highways; agitation spreads to 14 districts, 26 people killed in firing; government imposes National Security Act
Meenas oppose Gujjar demand, two communities clash; threat of caste looms large
June 4: To avert caste war, government and Gujjars leaders sign agreement leading to suspension of agitation
SC takes cognizance of agitation’s impact on normal life and destruction of public property, directs state government to register cases against culprits
Ministers and MLAs belonging to Meena community threaten to resign if government recommends Gujjar case to Centre
June 12: Raje government constitutes three-member Chopra Commission to look into Gujjars’ demand
Sept 13: Gujjars organize mahapanchayat in Dholpur, home district of Raje, to pressure government into recommending their case to Centre
October 2: Gujjars continue peaceful movement, organize ‘Jail Bharo Andolan’
Raje regime extends invitation to Gujjar leader Col Bainsala for negotiations with group headed by BJP MP Ram Das Agarwal
October 10: Bainsala announces withdrawal of jail bharo movement; move opposed by rival Gujjar faction
What commission did
The Chopra Commission was asked to submit report by September 12 but got an extension up to December 15
It visited 147 villages and had another 450 villages in various districts of Rajasthan surveyed, recorded 2,000 statements and received 14,632 memoranda
The three-member commission headed by Justice Jasraj Chopra submitted its report to the Vasundhara Raje government on Monday, seven months after being appointed. According to the report, the Gujjar community does not fulfil the criteria required for granting of ST status. These include primitiveness of culture, permanent shelters in the forests, untouchability, a feeling of being inferior in society, unique traditions, polygamy and backwardness. The commission said it would not be possible for it to recommend ST status for Gujjars as the statistical data of the community’s socio-economic conditions do not merit granting of such a status.
The commission said, “The state government should convey to the Centre that a national debate should be initiated on the existing norms for according ST status to any community. It should impress upon the Centre to that certain criteria should be abrogated as they had become outdated.”
“Current norms should be replaced by quantifiable criteria which will be relevant in the present context. The new criteria must stand judicial scrutiny, thereby enabling future commissions or committees appointed by the government to examine the issue with exactness and reliability,” the report says.
While advising the Rajasthan government to attend to the problems of the Gujjars residing in ravines, ‘Dangs’, forests and inaccessible areas, the commission said a board should be set up to oversee development of impoverished and backward areas in which many of them live.
“For this purpose, the state government should liberally allocate funds in the budget. Emphasis should be laid on construction of roads, motivating Gujjar children to go to schools, improving their health, providing potable water, immunisation and quality care of the children and aged,” the report says. “A new package should be announced for the benefit of the Gujjars. It should not overlap with existing schemes and should be implemented with commitment and zeal,” it says.
The factions opposing Colonel K.S. Bainsala have blamed him for the defeat of Gujjar stand. Rival faction leader and expelled BJP MLA Prahlad Gunjal said: “We have been saying no one should believe Col Bainsala, who is under the influence of the state government, which has played with the sentiments of the community. The agitation will be launched within seven days to force the government to accept our demand.”