Why Gujjars in Rajasthan are on protest? All you need to know
The agitation by the Gujjar community demanding five per cent quota in jobs and educational institutes turned violent in Dholpur district on Sunday as shots were fired and three police vehicles torched. The police said protesters pelted stones, injuring four people. The police had to lob tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. Here’s an explainer on the quota stir:
Who are Gujjars?
It is a pastoral community. As per the 1931 caste census, Gujjars constitute about 5% of Rajasthan’s population. They are present in around 21 districts. Traditionally, they have been BJP supporters.
What is their demand?
They are demanding 5% reservation under special backwards classes (SBC) category. The community began its fight for reservation in 2006 when it demanded inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) reservation. The Gujjars were covered under OBC reservation since 1994. After the Chopra Committee report said Gujjars could not be given ST status, the community settled for 5% reservation under a new SBC category. But because this took the total reservation in the state beyond the 50% ceiling set by the Supreme Court, the Rajasthan high court quashed it.
Has any government given them 5% SBC quota?
Yes. The Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government in 2008 brought a bill for 5% SBC reservation to Gujjars and four other communities (Banjara/Baldia/Labana, Gadia-Lohar/Gadalia, Raika/Rebari and Gadaria). The HC stayed the law on December 22, 2010, and asked the state to present quantifiable data to support reservation under SBC.
The government later repealed the 2008 Act and introduced a new bill in Assembly in September 2015, called the Rajasthan Special Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutes in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) Bill, 2015.
A notification for this was issued on October 16, 2015. Rajasthan HC struck it down on December 9, 2016 on the ground that the 5% reservation crossed the 50% limit for quota in education and jobs.
The Rajasthan government brought a bill in Assembly in 2017 to raise the other backward class (OBC) quota from the present 21% to 26% for granting 5% reservation to Gujjars and other castes. This, too, was struck down by the high court.
What is the current status of reservation in Rajasthan?
Currently, they can avail 1% reservation under most backward class (MBC) category apart from the benefit of OBC reservation. Reservation in the state stands at 50% – 16% to SC, 12% to ST, 21% to OBC and 1% to Gujjars.
Is this the first time Gujjars have blocked train traffic?
No. In May 2008, they laid siege to the Delhi-Mumbai rail route at Pilukapura near Bayana in Bharatpur district. They lynched a cop near the rail line leading police firing that claimed 15 lives. The next day, more Gujjars were killed in police firing in Sikandara in Dausa district.
They blocked the tracks in Pilukapura in December 2010 and May 2015 also but there was no violence.
In May 2007, Gujjars blocked Agra-Jaipur national highway at Peepalkheda and Patoli. 28 people were killed in police firing.
So far, the Gujjars have lost more than 70 people to police firing and clashes with the Meenas, who were opposing their demand for ST status in 2007.
Who is leading them?
Colonel (retd) Kirori Singh Bainsla has been leading the community since 2006 when they uprooted railway tracks in Hindaun City in Karauli district. Colonel Bainsla, 85, contested 2009 Lok Sabha election on BJP ticket and lost by 317 votes. In February 2019, his son Vijay Singh Bainsla also became part of the agitation as his deputy.
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