The Gujjars on Thursday re-launched an agitation for reservation, turning to their old tactic of disrupting train services even as the Rajasthan government began back channel talks to sort out an issue which has seen largescale violence in the past.
By evening hundreds of Gujjars were squatting on the vital Delhi-Mumbai railway line at Pilupura in Bharatpur district, while many others tried to dig up the remove the track, necessitating diversion of over a dozen trains. The agitators also blocked key roads.
Over 72 people have been killed since 2007 when the Gujjars, who form 7% of the state’s population, launched an agitation demanding 5% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.
Gujjar leader Col Kirori Singh Bainsla, who had called a mahapanchayat at Samogar in Bharatpur – around 200 km from Jaipur -- asked community members to “fight to the finish”.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. The chief minister had promised during the elections that all efforts would be made to give reservation,” Bainsla, chairman of the Gujjar Arakshan Sanghrash Samiti, later told reporters.
As the agitation continued, the government opened back channel talks with Gujjar leaders that went on late into the night on Thursday, sources said.
Inspector general of police, Bharatpur range, Biju George Joseph and bureaucrat Neeraj K Pawan, who had negotiated with Gujjar leaders earlier too, met Bainsla and tried to press upon him to start a dialogue.
Chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who reviewed the security situation with police, constituted a core group which included several ministers and state BJP president Ashok Parnami to hold talks with the community, officials said.
The Bharatpur administration imposed section 144 in Bayana sub-division till May 31 as a precautionary measure and also deployed a large contingent of Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) around the agitation site.
By Thursday night, the prohibitory orders were extended to neighbouring districts which have a large Gujjar population.
State Congress president Sachin Pilot backed the Gujjars but called for a “peaceful” agitation.
The previous Congress government had granted 5% reservation to the community in 2012 but the issue has been stuck in court since then as it exceeded the 50% reservation limit set by the Supreme Court.