Driving down the Jaipur-Agra highway, the road suddenly takes you to the Stone Age. The rule of law does not exist here and one finds oneself at the mercy of armed men.
Gangs of Meena and Gujjar castes patrol the highway, frisking, robbing and even molesting commuters. Only a press ID manages to get you a safe passage.
Once you cross Dausa, you enter a war zone. Two constables warn you: “Go back. Serious trouble ahead.” Barely 10 km later, you can sense the trouble.
The famous link to the ‘Golden Triangle’ tourist circuit, Jaipur-Agra-Delhi, has been stripped of its characteristic busy-ness.
That is when you run into the first Gujjar checkpoint. About a dozen teenagers, dressed in shabby soiled shirts and armed with sticks, tap the car’s bonnet to a halt. “Who are you?” comes the question. “The Press,” we answer from the backseat.
“What’s your caste?’ one of them yells at the driver. A Meena, made wise by the newspaper reports, the driver blurts back: “Vinod Sharma, a Brahmin.”
The boys check our ID cards and ask our photojournalist to click their pictures. The favour is repaid with a license to drive further.
A few kilometres ahead, the car is stopped again. A group of Meena youths, brandishing swords, frisk us.
“Stop siding with the Gujjars. Tumhari reports unko hero bana rahi hai,” we are let off with a warning. A few kilometres from the Gujjar blockade, terror strikes us as a speeding truck veers and comes to an abrupt halt.
‘Just checking my driving skills,” pat comes the reply from a young driver and a picture settles the problem.
Welcome to the tribal land.