Talks stalled as Gujjars seek leaders’ response

Friday, December 31, 2010

JAIPUR - Talks between the Gujjars and Rajasthan’s ministerial committee Friday 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.

Colonel (retired) K. S. Bainsla, convener of the Gujjar Aarakshan Sangarsh Samiti spearheading the agitation for five percent quota in government jobs, has communicated that further talks can only be held after the Gujjar leaders in the ruling Congress party hold talks with the state government on the charter of demands and then brief the agitators on the outcome of the talks.

These leaders must intervene before the talks in order to find a solution to their 12-day-old protest, said Bainsla Friday.

I am ready to send a delegation, but before that we would like to know about the response of the Gujjar leaders in the Congress party, including union Minister of State for Communications Sachin Pilot and Jitendra Singh, the energy minister in the Ashok Gehlot government, in resolving the issue, Bainsla added.

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

We are waiting for the government’s response and also from the Congress leaders from our community. As soon as we get it, we will send the delegation, Roop Singh, spokesperon of Gujjar Aarakshan Sangarsh Samiti, said.

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

“We were satisfied with the government’s viewpoint on several issues, including taking back cases against Gujjars and providing compensation to the family members of Gujjars killed in police firing. But the five percent reservation issue is yet to be resolved,” he said.

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

Sandhu, who is also looking after the home department, is a member of the state government delegation deputed to hold talks with the Gujjars.

“We have conveyed to the delegation 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,” he said.

He also described as “positive” the talks at Karwade village.

The government had earlier communicated to the Gujjars that the high court had given it a year’s time but it “wished to finish the task as early as possible.”

“The government is already giving one percent reservation and keeping aside four percent for them [Gujjars],” an official said.

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 Friday morning as the protesters continued to squat on the railway tracks near Bayana in Bharatpur district, about 150 km from state capital Jaipur.

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.

Filed under: Politics

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