An uneasy calm prevailed in Rajasthan on Saturday after four days of violence that claimed 30 lives. The fresh round of peace talks between the state government and representatives of the Gujjar community, which has been on an agitation demanding scheduled tribe status, remained inconclusive again.
But Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who participated in the talks for the first time on a day the prime minister appealed for peace, said she was hopeful the standoff would end soon. “The talks with the Gujjar delegation has moved forward satisfactorily,” Raje said in Jaipur late on Saturday.
Raje said she had invited Kirori Singh Baisala, the chief of Gujjar Sangharsh Samiti that is spearheading the agitation, for another round of talks — possibly on Sunday. “I am sure the current impasse would end after holding final talks with Baisala,” Raje said.
In Dausa, at the epicentre of the agitation, Baisala said he has accepted Raje’s invitation.
During the talks, both sides agreed to certain concessions. The Gujjars finally agreed to cremate the bodies of those killed in police firing. They had earlier said the bodies would not be cremated till the government fulfilled their demands. Baisala said they would cremate the bodies but added that the agitation would continue till the demands were met. The government, on its part, announced an ex-gratia grant of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of those killed in the police firing.
The state remained peaceful, barring a few clashes between the Gujjars and the Meenas — the scheduled tribe community, which feels the Gujjars might take a chunk of its quota benefits if they are listed as STs.
In Lalsot town in Dausa and adjoining Karauli districts, which saw Gujjar-Meena clashes on Friday, tension prevailed between as the security forces conducted flag marches. Arson was reported from a few places.
The state government imposed the National Security Act, which gives powers to the administration to arrest people without warrants, in 11 districts. “We have reports of minor skirmishes. Apart from that, Rajasthan remained calm,” state home secretary (security) B.L. Arya said.
Road and rail traffic returned to normal in most parts of the state. The army and administration cleared blockades from all major highways, except the Jaipur-Dausa stretch. Buses from Jaipur were sent to Delhi and Alwar under army protection. The railways resumed operations on the Jaipur-Delhi track.
But protests were reported from Haryana, UP and areas bordering Delhi. Rail and road traffic to Delhi was disrupted at Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad.
In Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met senior leaders of the BJP, which rules Rajasthan. “The events of the past few days in parts of Rajasthan have caused a great deal of pain and distress to large numbers of people,” Singh said later in his first statement since the trouble broke out. The Union home ministry followed it up with advisory to Rajasthan and neighbouring states with a significant Gujjar population.
BJP sources in Delhi said the party leadership directed Raje to sort out the issue soon as time was running out. But BJP chief Rajnath Singh ruled out the possibility of removal of Raje. “The priority now is restoration of peace,” he said.
(With inputs from Shekhar Iyer and Aloke Tikku in Delhi)