Vasundhara Raje, Gujjars hold fourth round of talks


Jaipur : Amid comparative calm in Rajasthan after four days, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Gujjar leaders met Saturday afternoon for the fourth round of talks over the latter's demand for tribal status that has sparked widespread violence.

Support TwoCircles

At the talks, held at the chief ministers' residence, Vasundhara Raje led the government team of ministers and officials while the Gujjar community was represented by over 10 leaders.

Talks started on a positive note, said official sources, adding that there was a hope of ending the crisis soon.

As all eyes were fixed on the outcome of the talks, Rajasthan remained calm except for reports of burning of a police post in Tonk district.

The trouble started Tuesday when a road blockade announced by the Gujjars to press for their demand for Scheduled Tribe status took a violent turn during which 14 people were killed in clashes between agitators and police.

"No major incidence of violence was reported from any part of the state since Friday evening, after four days of trouble in which some 25 people were killed in police firing and group clashes," a senior police official told IANS.

"We are hopeful of a positive outcome from the final round of talks with the chief minister," Gujjar leader Roop Singh told IANS before going for parleys.

"This would be the final round of talks. If nothing comes out of this, the consequences will be the sole responsibility of the government," he added.

The previous round of talks Friday night between the government and the representatives of the Gujjar Sangharsh Committee, the body spearheading the community's campaign, ended inconclusively.

An ugly caste conflict looms large in Rajasthan with Gujjars and Meenas clashing over the quota pie given to Scheduled Tribes. The Meena community is the dominant Scheduled Tribe community in the state.

On Friday, five people were killed and 20 injured in clashes between the two groups in Rajasthan's Dausa and Karauli districts, taking the death toll to 25 since the Gujjar fury erupted May 29, officials said.

The trouble started Friday when the Meenas tried to remove roadblocks put up by the Gujjars in Dausa. Intervention by the police and army averted further clashes between the two communities.

The Gujjar movement demanding tribal status, which they feel will improve their economic status, has paralysed rail and road traffic in many parts of Rajasthan.

Thousands have been stranded at railway stations and bus depots as the Gujjars continue to block highways leading to Agra, New Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.

But the government said the Jaipur-Delhi highway had been cleared but people are not willing to take the highway. The railways plan to run a few trains on the Bharatpur and Jaipur sectors Saturday.

The Rajasthan administration has also decided to evacuate over 5,000 pilgrims stranded in Mehendipur, on the Jaipur-Agra highway, with the help of the army.

"We are taking steps to clear the traffic jams on various highways. We have also started running some buses on the Jaipur-Delhi route," Rajasthan Transport Minister Younis Khan said.