Rajasthan burns as protests spread
Tension mounts as the 5-day old agitation spreads to new areas amid reports of violence and traffic chaos.india Updated: May 27, 2008 17:24 IST
Tension mounted as the five-day old Gujjar agitation spread to new areas in Rajasthan on Tuesday amid reports of violence and traffic chaos on highways.
Police teargassed Gujjar protesters who blocked the Delhi-Jaipur national highway as the agitation spread to Tonk and Banswara.
There were no signs of an end to the standoff between the Vasundhara Raje government and the protestors demanding ST status to the Gujjar community.
<B1>Hopes of a breakthrough were dashed with Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla outright rejecting a letter by the Chief Minister to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recommending four to six per cent reservation for Gujjars in the category of denotified tribes.
Hundreds of Gujjar youths put up blockades on National Highway-8 near Kotputali, 130 km from Jaipur, leading to jams on either sides of the road and queuing up of buses, police said.
Police first resorted to lathi charge and later used teargas shells to disperse the protesters. In Tonk district, about 200 kms from Jaipur, police used teargas against Gujjars who were forcing shopkeepers to down their shutters and blockading roads, Superintendent of Police, Giriraj Lal Meena told PTI.
At least ten people including two policemen were injured when protestors indulged in brick batting at Ghas village, 12 kms from Tonk, Meena said.
Taking a tough stand, the Rajasthan government followed up cases of murder, arson and violence slapped against Bainsla with a contempt plea for allegedly violating High Court order restraining the community leadership from taking law into their hands. The High Court on Tuesday issued notice to Bainsla on the contempt petition.
Bainsla, 70, a retired Colonel, made it clear that there was no question of relenting on their demand. Agitators burned tyres and effigies of the Chief Minister and state Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria at Banswara district, where some minor clashes with police took place.
Bandhs were observed in Beawar, Mandalgarh (Bhilwara) Deedwana, Parbatsar (Nagaur), Bhiwadi (Alwar), Kota and Bundi areas. In Jaipur, the Home Minister discounted reports that the security cover provided to Bainsla had been withdrawn.
Vowing to continue his agitation, Bainsla asked the Centre to examine the community's demand for ST status saying he would not settle for anything less that.
Responding to questions on the Chief Minister's proposal for additional quota for Gujjars, he said, "Our basic demand is to get the ST status which is notified under Section 342 of the Constitution.
"I have stated it before and I will state it again that the talk of the letter of the Chief Minister to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a total farce as it does not refer to the issue of ST status but reportedly mentions something about nomadic tribes," Bainsla, who is camping in this village in Bharatpur district with his supporters, told reporters.
Bainsla said, "The Centre should examine our demand...The agitation will go on... What the Gujjars want is notified ST status and nothing less than this."
Asked about the contempt notice issued by Rajasthan High Court directing him to appear before it on May 30, he said, "If conditions permit then I will definitely go to the Court and put forward my side."