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Gujjars agree to hold talks with Rajasthan Govt

The decision comes after more than a fortnight-long violent agitation which has claimed 43 lives so far.
PTI | By Neelabh Srivastava, Karwadi (rajasthan)
UPDATED ON JUN 06, 2008 10:50 PM IST

After more than a fortnight-long violent agitation which claimed 43 lives in police firing, the Gujjars demanding Scheduled Tribe status on Friday decided to hold talks with Rajasthan government at Bayana, about 12km from Krwadi.

The decision to hold the talks, at a date to be fixed in consultation with Rajasthan government, was taken at a meeting of top Gujjar leaders including leading intellectuals, here, the community leader Kirori Singh Bainsla, spearheading the agitation, told reporters.

Emerging from the Gujjar Mahapanchayat called a day after the state government sent a fresh invitation to the agitationists to join the negotiating table, he said the talks should be held at Bayana in Bharatpur district which has been the epicentre of the stir by the community since May 23.

Bainsla said Gujjar respresentatives for the talks would be announced after receiving a communication from the state government.

"We are communicating this message to the government through the media," Bainsla said. "Talks will take place in Bayana. The Gujjar representatives will be decided once we receive a comunication from the government about our decision," he said. "We have only one demand: that the state government should send a recommendation granting ST status to Gujjars," Bainsla said. He vowed to continue the agitation till the demand was met.

Gujjar representatives from Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and from other parts of Rajasthan like Alwar, Sikar, Sikandara, Dausa, which have a sizable Gujjar population, arrived in Karwadi after the noon and sat in a 'Mahapanchayat' with Bainsla.

After the Mahapanchayat, Bainsla led all the members on to the railway tracks from where he made the announcement about the decision to hold the talks in Bayana.

Bainsla made a special mention of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav as he said "I thank the Railway Minister as we are sitting on these rail tracks for 15 days. We will repair the railway tracks in whatever ways we can once we leave this place."

Bainsla also thanked Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh, Lok Janshakti leader Uma Bharti, farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan among others for the support extended by them to the Gujjars.

Gujjar leaders, who arrived in Karwadi from various parts of the country, extended their support to Bainsla and said they would follow whatever decision he takes to secure their demands.

Congress leader Rambir Singh Vidhudi, who came to Karwadi from Delhi, said he will take up the matter with Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

The Gujjars began their agitation at Karwadi on May 23 squatting on rail tracks and highways blocking movement of trains and buses between the Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh and obstructing trains on Delhi-Jaipur and Delhi-Mumbai routes.

The movement by the community members later spread across Rajasthan and beyond the state, particularly in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu.

Violence marred the agitation from day one when 17 people were killed in police firing and a policeman was lynched by Gujjar protestors at Karwadi-Pilupura area in Bharatpur district.

Gujjar protestors also went on the rampage in several other parts of Rajasthan as also in Panipat district of Haryana.
Rajasthan Chief Minister tried to toss the Gujjars' demand to the Centre's court by suggesting separate 4-6 per cent reservation for the community under the nomadic tribe category. But the Centre said it is the state government which should take the initiative for this.

The Gujjars, on the other hand, stuck to their demand of nothing less than ST status.

The two sides were also embroiled in a confrontation over the postmortem of police firing victims whose bodies were held by the agitators at Karwadi for more than ten days before the Gujjars and the state government resiled from their stated positions and came to an agreement and the autopsies were performed earlier this week.

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