Rajasthan urges Gujjars to hold talks

Friday, December 31, 2010

JAIPUR - The Rajasthan government Saturday requested the Gujjar community, agitating for five percent reservation in jobs, to send a delegation to hold further talks on their charter of demands while their protests continued to affect train services in parts of the state.

“We have requested them to send the delegation and we are confident that the talks should start sometime today (Saturday),” an official of state home department told IANS.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot Friday night met a delegation of Gujjar leaders in a bid to find an amicable solution the ongoing agitation. The delegation was led by former Congress legislator Harisingh Mahua.

Gehlot requested the delegation and Jitendra Singh, his cabinet colleague who is also part of the three-member ministerial committee, to find a solution to the problem after talking to the community members and Colonel (retired) K.S. Bainsla, convener of the Gujjar Aarakshan Sangarsh Samiti spearheading the agitation for five percent quota in government jobs.

“We are committed to provide five percent reservation to Gujjars,” Gehlot said.

On Friday, talks between the Gujjars and Rajasthan’s ministerial committee had got caught in a new tangle as the agitators first sought feedback on their demands from the community leaders who are part of the state’s Congress government.

Bainsla said that further talks can only be held after the Gujjar leaders in the ruling Congress party hold talks with the government on the charter of demands and then brief the agitators on the outcome.

“I am ready to send a delegation, but before that we would like to know the response of the Gujjar leaders in the Congress party, including Sachin Pilot (union minister of state for communications) and Jitendra Singh (state energy minister) on resolving the issue,” Bainsla said.

Gujjars Thursday agreed to send a 21-member delegation to Jaipur for talks with the three-member ministerial committee comprising Jitendra Singh, state Home Minister Shanti Dhariwal and Transport Minister B.K. Sharma.

The agitators also said the talks at Karwade in Bharatpur district Thursday between a Gujjar delegation and state government representatives were positive.

G.S. Sandhu, the Rajasthan government’s principal secretary for urban development, said: “The talks were held in a cordial atmosphere. We are optimistic that an amicable solution would be reached.”

“We have conveyed to them that the government is committed to provide them five percent reservation, but in the light of the high court judgment it would have to go through the legal process,” said Sandhu, who also looks after the home department and is a member of the state government delegation deputed to hold talks with the Gujjars.

As efforts were made to break the impasse, the Gujjars continued with their agitation that started Dec 20.

Train services between Delhi and Mumbai remained affected Saturday morning as protesters continued to squat on railway tracks near Bayana in Bharatpur district, about 150 km from here.

Gujjars decided on a rail blockade Dec 20, after holding a ‘mahapanchayat’ (community conclave) in Bayana. Hundreds of protesters blocked 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, had between 2006 and 2008 staged violent protests, in which many lives were lost.

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