Gujjars agree to talks Thursday as stir reaches Delhi (Night Lead)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

BAYANA/NEW DELHI - The Gujjar community said it would hold talks with the Rajasthan government Thursday while its 10-day agitation for five percent reservation in government jobs continued to hit rail services in parts of the state and even spilled over to the national capital and Greater Noida.

“Gujjar leaders today (Wednesday) evening communicated to us that they would like to hold talks with us on Thursday. We hope to hold talks in the first half of Thursday,” said G.S. Sandhu, Rajasthan’s principal secretary for urban development.

Sandhu, who is also looking after the home department, is member of the state government delegation that has been deputed to hold talks with the Gujjars and has been camping in Bayana in Rajasthan for five days.

Bayana is in Bharatpur district, about 150 km from state capital Jaipur.

In a bid to pacify the community, the Rajasthan government announced late Tuesday that it would hold back four percent of the jobs, in addition to the one percent already being given to them, till a final court decision.

This announcement was a major shift in the government stand. The state government, headed by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, had till now proposed to set aside only “notional posts” till the high court verdict.

But the Gujjars led by Colonel (retd) K.S. Bainsla, convener of the Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, refused to call off the agitation that started Dec 20. They called for a Bharatpur shutdown Dec 30.

The protests have also spilled over to New Delhi and adjoining Greater Noida, but no major violence was reported.

Demonstrations were held at Jantar Mantar in the national capital amid tight security. Gujjar demonstrators from adjoining states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan gathered and raised slogans in support of their community in Rajasthan. No traffic jams or incidents of violence were reported.

Protests were also held in neighbouring Greater Noida, where demonstrators stopped traffic, causing snarls.

“We are demonstrating in support of the rights of Gujjars, we are with those protesting in Rajasthan,” said Ajit Dowla, a Gujjar leader from Greater Noida.

Train services between Delhi and Mumbai and a few other sectors remained affected Wednesday as Gujjars continued to squat on railway tracks near Bayana.

Gujjars decided on a rail blockade Dec 20, after holding a ‘mahapanchayat’ (community conclave) in Bayana. Following the decision, hundreds of protesters squatted on the rail tracks in Piloo Ka Pura, forcing the railways to divert or cancel a few trains.

In July 2009, the Rajasthan government announced five percent reservation for Gujjars and 14 percent for the economically backward classes, taking the total reservation in the state for various sections of society to 68 percent.

Since the total reservation had exceeded the Supreme Court cap of 50 percent, the high court in October 2009 stayed the quota in jobs and educational institutions in the state for Gujjars and the economically backward classes.

In a ruling Dec 22, 2010, the high court struck down the job quota for Gujjars.

Gujjars, demanding reservation for better educational and job prospects earlier between 2006 and 2008, had staged violent protests in which many lives were lost.

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