A solution to the Gujjar unrest in Rajasthan seemed a step closer on Wednesday after the community’s leaders accepted the state government’s offer for talks.
Kirori Singh Baisela, president of the Gujjar Sanghrash Samiti (GSS), told HT on the phone from Patoli that he had responded positively to the government's initiative and preliminary negotiations would be held anytime in Dausa with the four cabinet ministers designated by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
Baisela said, “The GSS will be represented by six leaders — Captain HP Tanwar, Captain Jagran Singh, Chen Singh, Atar Singh, Balgovind and Dr Roop Singh — who will discuss the major demand to recommend to the Centre the inclusion of the Gujjars in the Scheduled Tribe category.”
He added, “If the state government representatives give a concrete assurance in writing, I will meet the chief minister on Thursday. Otherwise our agitation will continue till the demand is accepted by the government.” A state cabinet meeting chaired by Raje had decided to invite Gujjar leaders for a dialogue to resolve the crisis.
Raje said, "My doors are always open to the leaders of the agitating Gujjar community to find some amicable solution to their problem. I will not permit anti-social elements to fan the violence, and they will be dealt with an iron hand."
At least 16 people were killed on Tuesday in clashes between policemen and Gujjars.
Second day of unrest
Protests entered the second day on Wednesday. With the army and the police nowhere to be seen, there was chaos in the Gujjar strongholds of Dausa district. The Jaipur-Agra highway was blocked by children, youngsters and men of the Gujjar community. Armed with iron rods, the protesters damaged vehicles and set them on fire. Bystanders and journalists were abused and threatened.
Mahesh Sharma, a Patoli resident, said, "For around 50 km from Sikandra to Patoli, there was no police or army presence till the afternoon. The situation has been very bad. The elderly have been waiting on the roadside all day but there have been no buses or vehicles. People are openly brandishing weapons and have taken over from the administration."
After refusing to hand over the body of a policeman on Tuesday, the protesters finally relented. The administration had to send a three-doctor panel after the mob refused to let the police take the bodies of the six people who died at Patoli on Tuesday. The postmortem of the six was conducted in an ambulance.
In the evening, the mob started digging up the highway to restrict army movement in the area. By then, thousands of Gujjars from Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Gurgaon and Uttar Pradesh had gathered at Patoli in support of the agitation.
Gujjar leaders blamed police officers belonging to the Meena community for Tuesday's deaths. Baisela said, "A senior police officer belonging to the Meena community opened firing and is responsible for these deaths."