Behind the scenes activity helped shape Monday’s pact between the Rajasthan government and the state’s Gujjars. Pressure from the Meenas and Gujjar leader Col Kirori Singh Bhainsla’s lack of political experience were the two key factors in the Jaipur breakthrough.
Six days ago, when the Gujjars began their violent agitation for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list, their leaders said they would relent only if the state government gave them a “letter recommending their claim to the Centre”.
In response, the government’s firefighters got to work with a two-pronged action plan. A committee nominated by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje began a long dialogue that would ultimately wear down the Gujjars. In the background, two of Raje’s ministers, Kirori Lal Meena and Virendra Meena, were busy generating opposition from within the Meenas. “We were guarding the interests of the community. There was no way we could have allowed the Gujjars in the ST list,” Kirori Lal said.
The government quoted field reports from 33 districts to put a stumbling block before the Gujjars. Only two of the state’s districts — Dausa and Sawai Madhopur — favoured the Gujjar contention, and the government found solid ground to stand and resist. “The reports were compiled two months before the agitation began. The Gujjar leaders were told that the ground reality did not support them,” state parliamentary affairs minister Rajendra Rathore said.
Tired of the deadlock, the Gujjars in Patoli had become restless by Sunday. The talks were going nowhere, meanwhile, and the Meenas had blocked almost all their supplies. Food and water had become scarce.
Sensing the mood in Patoli, the government announced its first sop — compensation to families of people killed in firing. This calmed the agitated Gujjars, many of whom left to cremate their dead. On the same day, the government invited Col. Kirori Singh Bhainsla for direct talks with the chief minister.
On the sidelines, the BJP general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, Gopi Nath Munde, had worked out a compromise formula with Meena leaders. They were told the ST structure would not be touched. “We were assured that our interests won’t be hurt,” said Kirori Meena.
On Monday, as Col. Bhainsla left for the chief minister’s house, it was clear that he had given up. Even before the talks had begun, Bhainsla told reporters the agitation was over. “We will call off the agitation even if the government does not recommend our case,” he said.
Convinced that the Gujjar leaders were desperate for a solution, the government then offered them a commission; its report would be filed in three months. The Gujjars readily accepted this face-saving measure.