Gujjars agree to talks to end stir (Lead, Changing dateline)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

BAYANA - The Gujjar community, agitating for over a week for five percent reservation in government jobs in Rajasthan, Wednesday agreed to hold talks with government representatives.

Colonel (retired) K.S. Bainsla, convener of the Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, the outfit spearhheading the protests, is likely to lead an eight-member delegation to meet government representatives camping here sometime later Wednesday.

“Right now, the Gujjars are holding talks between themselves and they have communicated that once discussions between themselves end, they would like to have talks with us. We are hopeful of an outcome and this agitation to end,” said G.S. Sandhu, the Rajasthan government’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.

But Sandhu, who has been camping here for five days, said he would be heading back to Jaipur Wednesday night.

“It can’t be an endless wait. I am here for the last five days. They initially agreed for talks but said they would be delayed or cancelled later. They then again agreed…,” Sandhu said.

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 government stand. The state government, headed by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, had till now proposed to set aside only “notional posts” for SBCs till the high court verdict.

The Gujjars, however, refused to call off their agitation that started Dec 20. They have called for Bharatpur shutdown Dec 30.

Train services between Delhi and Mumbai and a few other sectors remained affected Wednesday as Gujjars continued to squat on the railway tracks near Bayana in Bharatpur district, about 150 km from the state capital Jaipur.

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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