One could see a hint of elation in the eyes of 20-year-old Ravindra Singh Rajput as he glanced at the huge barricades and police personnel moving all around the place where he stood.
A few feet away, a cabinet minister of Rajasthan sat on the pavement looking unusually calm as he was surrounded by hordes of young men, many of whom were armed with bamboo sticks -- their expressions a mishmash of joy and rage.
“It is time that the government understood that reservation is a necessity for us. In every walk of life we need quota to succeed, be it securing admission in college or getting government jobs. We all know that no one will listen to us unless we use force,” said Rajput, a B Com second-year student.
From slogans in favour of absconding gangster Anandpal Singh to vandalised hoardings in front of the BJP office, the drama that unfolded in Jaipur over six hours on Friday took the law-enforcement agencies and the government by surprise.
Hundreds of Shree Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena members took to the streets and marched towards the state assembly, armed with iron rods, canes and raising a volley of slogans even as the police struggled to control law and order.
“Ham aapke liye jigra dete hai, aur aap hamari sunte he nahi ho (We give our lives for you but you don’t listen to us,” complains a Rajput youngster as state transport minister Yunus Khan tries to pacify the situation.
Another protester says, “Look at Akhilesh Yadav and how he has raised the upper age limit for government jobs to 40 years. Why the government in Rajasthan is reluctant to do the same?”
Khan, who with energy minister Pushpendra Singh had to give the assembly a miss to mediate with the Sena members, seems to be on the back foot.
“It’s not like that. Ham bhi aapke bina kaha jayenge (where will we go without you?),” asks Khan as another youngster cracks a joke in chaste marwari, leaning on a heavy bamboo stick.
IPS officers stood near the barricades with constables and fire brigades, helmets protecting their heads from the occasional stone pelting from the agitators. A loudspeaker blares speeches given by Sena leaders in the other side of the barricades.
“I have studied civil engineering and had appeared in a government examination. I scored 72% but the cut-off for general category was 72.33%. I lost the job opportunity by just 0.33%. But there were heavy relaxations for reserved categories,” said Vishwendra Sharma, another participant.
Apart from Rajputs, many participants were from other non-reserved castes.
“This protest is not only about the release of the film Padmavati. I am a Brahman and came with others to raise our demand for increase in upper age limit for government jobs,” said Ravindra Mohan Sharma of Rajasthan Pratiyogi Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti.
The participants seemed to believe that a little violence and vandalism is necessary for their voice to be heard.
“We will come again on Monday to discuss the issue with the government,” said Harshpratap Singh Jharana, another protester.