A group of Gujjars demanding job reservation allegedly misbehaved with women and looted shops in Rajasthan’s Dausa district on Monday, while local residents joined hands with police and forced the protesters to clear a key national highway in the area.
Members of the community who seek a 5% quota in public sectors jobs rejected a government invite for talks in Jaipur, asking the state administration to send a team to Bayana town near the site of the demonstration’s epicentre.
Protesters have been squatting on railway tracks under a blazing sun and blocking road traffic in the Peelu Ka Pura area over the past five days, saying they will not relent till the BJP-led state government agrees to their demand.
At least 72 people have been killed since 2007 when members of the traditionally pastoralist community, who comprise 7% of the state’s population, launched a protest demanding reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.
Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla, who has been the face of the demonstrations, was taken to hospital on Monday after reportedly suffering a heatstroke, though his colleagues said he had gone for a routine check-up.
Police officials said protesters tried to block the Jaipur-Agra highway at Sikandra in Dausa by burning tyres and damaging some buses, but security forces were rushed to the spot and they foiled the efforts.
IG Jaipur (rural) DC Jain said local residents complained about the demonstrators looting shops and harassing women, following which more security personnel were deployed in the area.
Hundreds of Gujjar activists also gathered outside the collector’s office in Bhilwara district, as they shouted slogans against the state government and submitted a memorandum addressed to the governor, asking for 5% reservation.
They announced support for Bainsla and said if the Gujjar leader asked for “reinforcements”, more than 1,000 people would go to Peelu Ka Pura.
The state administration wrote to Gujjar leaders again on Monday evening, asking them to come to Jaipur for further discussions “as per their convenience”, as several cases related to the quota issue are in court and various departments concerned with the matter are located in the state capital.
The government formed a panel including health minister Rajendra Rathore, social justice minister Arun Chaturvedi and food and civil supplies minister Hem Singh Bhadana for talks with the protesters.