Many people who have to travel for work and other purposes from the National Capital Region (NCR) to various places in Delhi will hesitate to step out today. The reason? The Gujjar agitation, now in its seventh day, has threatened to paralyse the NCR as thousands of protestors plan to block roads. Ever since the turmoil, which has claimed 38 lives, began over the Gujjar demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category, we have seen a lot of political rhetoric on what this means for the BJP’s electoral fortunes, the fate of the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan and whether the Centre should step in to resolve the issue. We have heard all about the promises of 2-4 per cent reservations in government jobs in a separate category, we have heard that the Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla has floated a new party and how this will impact on the BJP and Congress.
But despite the large-scale loss to life and property, not a squeak on why this essentially law and order situation was not nipped in the bud. True, the police and paramilitary are out in huge numbers today, but things should never have been allowed to come to such a violent pass. Instead of trying to plead with and cajole the agitators, however justified their grievances may be, the state government should have firmly told them that any disruption of the law would not be tolerated. They should have been told in no uncertain terms that they have first to come to the negotiating table and hammer out a solution as is expected in any democratic polity. But alas, politics has got in the way and the situation has now become a show of strength between the Gujjar community and the state government. In other words, the state that is committed to uphold law and order has become an adversary to the agitators on the street.
As a result, thousands of people have been denied freedom of movement, are put at risk of physical violence and deprived of their livelihoods for the past days. We have seen similar instances in Nandigram, West Bengal, where what should have been dealt with first as a law and order problem was spun out into a political battle. The result, predictably, was needless loss of lives and property. We can only hope that at least today, the state will act in time and not allow the situation to escalate.