Special Correspondent

JAIPUR: Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Friday asked the State Government not to use force any more to deal with the Gujjar protesters.

“There had been a lot of bloodshed in the past and now under no circumstances there should be another police firing in the State,” he said.Mr. Gehlot wanted the Gujjar community also to keep restraint and opt for the path of negotiations. “Both the Government and the protesters should realize that in democracy there is no place for violence, oppression and obstinacy,” he said.

The Congress general secretary, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Defence Minister A.K. Antony in Delhi before leaving for Jaipur the other day, said the Centre and the Congress party were sensitive to the Gujjar issue and wanted a solution through the Constitution and within the laws of the land. “Everyone has a right to demand reservation but getting it depends on the provisions of the Constitution. Mutual dialogue is also an important component,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that the Rajasthan Government did not make any timely effort to start a dialogue with Gujjars. On the other hand, the Chief Minister adopted a laid-back posture while her ministers resorted to making political statements hurting the sentiments of the Gujjar community and creating an atmosphere of unrest,” Mr. Gehlot charged.

“Even when the blood of innocent Gujjars as well as policemen was spilled on the roads, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje used threatening language while giving statements to television channels,” he said. The whole of Rajasthan was now suffering due to one false promise on the part of Ms. Raje, on Scheduled Tribe status for Gujjars, Mr. Gehlot said. “If she had accepted her mistake on time and apologised to the Gujjar community for the promise she cannot fulfil, 65 deaths could have been averted,” Mr. Gehlot noted.