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Rajasthan limps back to normalcy

jaipur Updated: Jun 05, 2007 13:51 IST

After a week of caste clashes, normalcy returned to Rajasthan on Tuesday with traffic resuming on the pivotal Jaipur-Agra highway and most trains and bus services expected to begin operating from afternoon.

A day after the Rajasthan government reached an agreement with the Gujjars, fighting for tribe status for the community in order to get quotas in jobs and education, thousands of people stranded on the highway that links the tourist hot spots of Jaipur and Agra prepared to go home.

"The Gujjars have lifted the blockade after seven days and traffic has resumed. Though in some stretches the road has been damaged, traffic movement has started on the road," Rajasthan Transport Minister Younis Khan said.

Thousands of passengers had been stuck, including over 2,000 in the temple town of Mehandipur Balaji situated on the highway.

Most trains and buses are expected to resume their routine operations from Tuesday afternoon. "We were carrying mangoes and have been stranded on the highway for the last six days. Though the mangoes have become stale by now, at least we can move on from here," said Hakim Singh, a relieved truck driver.

His colleague Jagdeep Singh thanked god fervently. "There was no water or food. It was really a bad experience, but at least its over."

At least 25 people were killed and over 80 injured in the weeklong protest that spilled over to other states, including the national capital.

Blockade lifted

The blockade was lifted after Kirori Lal Bainsla, a retired Indian Army Colonel and convenor of Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, reached Patauli near Dausa late Monday and gave details about the accord reached with the government to the protesters who had been staging a sit-in for seven days.

According to the agreement, a retired Rajasthan High Court judge will head a three-member high-powered committee that will submit its recommendations within three months to the state government. The committee is to draft in an expert on tribal issues as its member-secretary.

Sources close to the chief minister Vasundhara Raje said her daughter-in-law Niharika, who is also a Gujjar, played an important role in mediating between the Gujjars and the state government.

The Meenas, who are classified as Scheduled Tribes and were vehemently opposing any move to include Gujjars in the category, were happy too. "We are satisfied with the understanding. The state government has not written about granting tribal status to Gujjars and this is what we wanted," said Kirori Lal Meena, a leader of the community and a minister in Raje cabinet said.

Gujjars dissatisfied

At least five people had been killed in clashes between the two communities. But most of the 25 killings took place when the police fired at Gujjar mobs.

However, some Gujjars are unhappy. "We lost so many lives for this cause, but look what we have got -- nothing," complained Ram Singh.

"We want reservation and the colonel has assured us that this is the first step in getting tribal status. We will wait, but not beyond three months," added Suresh, another protesting Gujjar.

Another Gujjar body, the Rajasthan Pradesh Gujjar Mahasabha, has also said they would continue with the agitation. "We had always fought for reservation for the community and we will continue to fight for it. We are not concerned about the agreement reached on Monday," the group said in a statement.