Around 11 pm on Saturday, the Meena-dominated village of Nimeda was wide awake for a special visitor. Sachin Pilot, Congress MP from Ajmer and a prominent Gujjar leader, had dropped by to break bread with them. Quite literally.
Late in the night, the 31-year-old minister of state for communications and technology landed at the tiny village — at the Ajmer-Tonk-Bhilwara border — where he was welcomed with folk songs and served a traditional meal. He spoke to the villagers and rested under a neem tree at the house of former sarpanch Ganpat Ram Meena.
The move assumes significance in the wake of the Congress government’s recent attempts to bridge the divide between the Gujjars and Meenas. The two communities have been on a warpath over the issue of reservations for the last two years as the Gujjars — presently included under the OBC list — have been demanding ST status.
The Meenas, on the other hand, are the much better off community — dominating a majority of the government jobs but reluctant to share the reservation pie. Their opposition to the Gujjars’ demand has caused a rift between the two castes, often leading to a tense situation in the state.
Pilot’s night halt at the remote village in Kekri comes as the government’s second ‘peace initiative’ in the span of two weeks. The last was a meeting called by the State Home minister Shanti Dhariwal on June 6, where the Meenas agreed to let the Gujjars have a separate 5 per cent quota specially created for them by the Vasundhara Raje government.
“We must not forget that 70 people died in the agitations last year. Violence is not the answer to any problem. The only way to solve disputes is by talking to each other,” Pilot told HT.
As for the separate five per cent quota — the Bill for which is still pending with the governor — he said it needed to passed off quickly. “What has been passed unanimously by the assembly should be cleared now; if there are any gaps, then they should be addressed soon. What is the right of a certain backward caste, should be given to them,” he said.
Pilot, who fought elections from Ajmer district as opposed to the family stronghold Dausa, however, said this was not any special initiative, “I had met Ganpat Ram earlier during my election campaign. I am touring all 600 constituencies to say thank you to people who voted for me. This village fell on my way, so I decided to stay for the night.”
Sarvesh Parikh, general secretary NSUI, Rajasthan, also present at Pilot’s night halt, said: “This stay is like killing two birds with one stone: sending out a message of harmony between the two castes and, also pleasing Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who had also stayed at a villager’s house.”
The villagers at Nimeda said that even while the Gujjar agitation was on, the two communities in around the area remained united.
“We were always together, even during the violence was going on. For years, we have been together. We want reservation, but we will never speak against them,” said Vinod Gurjar, a villager at Nimeda.
The Gujjars led by Col KS Bainsala launched an agitation in 2007 demanding the ST status for the community.