Rajasthan forms committee to hold talks with Gujjars


Jaipur : The Rajasthan government Wednesday formed a cabinet committee to hold talks with the leaders of the militant Gujjar community to work out a peace formula, a day after 14 people were killed in an ethnic upsurge over their demands for better employment and educational opportunities.

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"We really want to defuse the crisis and the chief minister has invited Gujjar leaders to hold talks with us on the issue," Home Minister G.C. Kataria said here.

The decision to set up the four-member committee was taken at a cabinet meeting held here in the afternoon.

Tuesday's violence saw police and Gujjars, a largely farming community whose primary occupation was cattle rearing, clashing in Bundi and Patauli near Dausa. Wednesday also got off to an explosive start with a mob torching police posts in Atal Band area of Bharatpur town, about 175 km from here, and in Deeg area as well.

However, the situation in Bundi and Patauli districts was normal with protestors agreeing to cremate the bodies of those killed in Tuesday's clashes, Kataria said.

Meanwhile, the national highway that connects two important tourist destinations Jaipur and Agra, part of the famous Golden Triangle that includes Delhi, still wore a deserted look.

Burning tyres, stones and bricks scattered all over in a stretch of over 20-30 kilometres near Patauli are witnesses of Tuesday's violence.

Gujjars, constituting around 10 percent of the state's 56 million population, are demanding schedule tribe status so they can be eligible for government sops in education and employment.

"The scene is bad. Pieces of stones, bricks are scattered all over and in some areas protestors have even dug up roads," a police official said.

"I have been stranded here for the last two days. There is no way to go from here as the road is blocked. I do not know when I would be able to go to Delhi", Naresh Sharma, a resident of Delhi who came to the religious town of Mehandipur Balaji, told IANS.

Sharma is not the only sufferer as a large number of people willing to travel to places like Agra, Bharatpur and Mathura are also unable to move.

Protests over granting tribal status to the Gujjars has started to spread to new areas.

The protestors Wednesday burnt two police posts in Bharatpur district and torched government vehicles in Jhalawar, the chief minister's constituency. Two buses were also reportedly torched near Bairath on the Jaipur-Alwar route.

Indian Army personnel have been deployed around Patauli on Jaipur-Agra highway, the place that witnessed worst of the clashes Tuesday.

Though the government claims to have made some traffic diversions, people are not taking the route. Even the bus service between Jaipur-Agra has been suspended.

The rail traffic between Jaipur and Agra has also been diverted as rail tracks were uprooted near Bandikui, near Dausa.

"Thank god, it is not a tourist season. Otherwise lots of tourists would have been stranded as almost 60 percent of international tourists come to the Golden Triangle," Navendu Goswami, a Jaipur-based travel agent, said.