Home India News Thousands gather for Gujjar mahapanchayat

Thousands gather for Gujjar mahapanchayat

Dholpur (Rajasthan), Sep 13 (IANS) Thousands of Gujjars gathered here Thursday for a massive show of strength by the community to demand tribal status, prompting the district authorities to beef up security and closely monitor the situation.

Thousands of Gujjars have also arrived from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in addition to those from Rajasthan for the mahapanchayat or mass gathering at the Babu Maharaj ki Than that began at 11 a.m.

The gathering assumes significance in the light of the decision by the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party government Wednesday night to extend till Dec 15 the tenure of the Justice Jasraj Chopra committee looking into the Gujjar demand for scheduled tribe (ST) status.

The committee was originally supposed to submit its report Wednesday, and Gujjar leaders had threatened an agitation if it was given an extension. Thursday’s mahapanchayat is expected to serve an ultimatum to the state government. “A final deadline will be announced,” said a Gujjar leader of Agra.

Gujjars are currently classified as other backward classes (OBC) in Rajasthan.

They had held widespread protests demanding special tribes status – which will give them better educational and employment opportunities – from May 29 to June 4, triggering large-scale violence in which 26 people were killed and roads remained blocked in Rajasthan and adjoining parts of north India.

Given this background, Dholpur district magistrate Ashutosh and Senior Superintendent of Police Devendra Choudhary Thursday monitored the security arrangements themselves. District authorities were constantly in touch with officials in two larger cities nearby – Agra and Gwalior.

Around 5,000 security personnel kept a close eye on the movement of rally participants, who included at least 200 leaders of the community.

The Rajasthan High Court too is seized of the matter and is closely watching Thursday’s gathering.

Gujjar leaders scheduled to address the gathering include Retd. Col. Kirori Singh Bainsla – who had spearheaded the agitation last time – MLA Prahlad Gunjal, national president of the Gujjar Samaj Anna Patil, Congress MP Sachin Pilot, Awatar Singh Bhadana and several other MPs from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh as well as some ministers from Delhi and Himachal Pradesh. Special helipads have been prepared close to the site for the ministers.

Informed sources told IANS that two decisions are likely to be taken at the end of the Mahapanchayat – on Oct 2 demonstrations will be held at all district headquarters in Rajasthan by community activists and on Nov 3, a huge ‘Swabhiman’ rally will be organised in New Delhi to press for the acceptance of their demands.