Violence in Rajasthan acquires a caste colour


Jaipur : An ugly caste conflict loomed large in Rajasthan Friday with the Gujjars and Meenas clashing over the quota pie given to Scheduled Tribes as the situation spiralled out of control and the state remained virtually cut off from the country.

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Though the government has categorically refused to put out any more casualty figures, reports from Dausa district said eight people were killed and 30 injured in clashes between the two communities in Lalsot area.

Meenas, who are the only ones with ST status in the state, were trying to converge to Dausa to remove roadblocks put up by the Gujjars, whose movement for ST status that would entitle them to quotas in jobs and education entered the fourth troubled day.

Minor clashes also broke out between the over 8,000 pilgrims who are stranded in Mehandipur Balaji, a Hindu religious town on Jaipur-Agra highway, and the Meena community.

The army was called in to assist the local administration in Dausa, where agitators were said to have damaged a water pipeline, and shoot at sight orders were issued in Bayana in Bharatpur district.

In Kota, the army was called in to assist the police to save a police post from being burnt.

Trouble broke out in other parts as well with police firing in the air to disperse violent mobs.

The violence showed no signs of let up despite leaders of the Gujjar Sangharsh Samiti, which is spearheading the agitation, calling for calm.

The government scrambled to find a way and prepared to hold its third round of talks with the large farming community.

The talks Thursday ended inconclusively, leading to fresh tensions on day four of the trouble – at least 22 people have been killed since Tuesday.

The trouble in the state affected thousands of people who were stranded at railway stations and bus depots waiting to go home as the Gujjars continued to block arterial highways leading to Agra, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.

Many bus and train services along key routes have either been cancelled or diverted.

A defensive government has decided to not give out casualty figures any more.

"We are not here to count dead bodies," said Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, when asked by reporters how many people had died in Thursday's firing in Boli, Sawai Madhopur.

While two people were killed in police firing Thursday, the toll has gone up to four with two succumbing to their injuries.

While the Meenas, who contributed to 12-15 percent of the Rajasthan's population, have refused to share their quota pie with anybody, the Gujjars, who are classified as other backward classes (OBCs), are hoping for a positive response from the government to their demands.

"The talks were fruitful but inconclusive," said Roop Singh, representative of Gujjar Sangarsh Samiti, after the second round of talks.

"There was a good response from the government and they have promised to give us a positive answer," he said.

And that may lead to an entire new set of problems for the Vasundhara Raje government.