Rajasthan begins parleys with Gujjar leaders


Jaipur : The Rajasthan government Thursday began parleys with various Gujjar groups following a threat by the community to hold a large sit-in protest here Jan 21.

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Government sources said meetings would be held on daily and the first one was conducted Thursday.

Gujjars, presently belonging to the other backward class (OBC) category have been demanding their inclusion in the scheduled tribe (ST) category that would give them better employment and educational opportunities.

At least 26 people were killed in violent protests by the Gujjars and clashes between them and the Meenas from May 29 to June 4 last year. The Meenas, the largest community under the tribal category in Rajasthan, are against the inclusion of the Gujjars in the ST list.

Ramdas Agarwal, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, is representing the government in the meetings and is trying to convince Gujjars that the administration has tried its best to address the community’s grievances and the ball is now in the centre’s court.

The state government is also ready to send a letter to the union government asking Gujjars to be granted reservation under the de-notified tribal category, sources added.

“The draft letter asking the union government to grant reservation to Gujjars under the de-notified scheduled tribe category has already been made,” a government source said.

According to the draft, the state government is willing to provide four to six percent of reservation to Gujjars and 23 other nomadic tribes and castes of Rajasthan.

However, Gujjars seem unwilling to relent.

“We will hold our mahapadav (protest) in Jaipur on Jan 21 and if the government tries to stop us from doing so then we will be forced to block the national highways,” Mukhiya Gujjar, a Gujjar leader, said.

He alleged that the government is trying to arrest the community’s leaders.

The Gujjar Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti, which has called for the sit in protest, is trying its best to make sure the agitation is successful.

The leaders of the group are visiting villages and requesting community members to participate in the protest.

“We want a full tribal status. Nothing short of it is acceptable to us. We will go ahead with our mahapadav and continue with it till our demand is met,” Prahlad Gunjal, the leader of the Gujjar Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti, said.