Sunny Sebastian

JAIPUR: In a major initiative at starting a dialogue between the warring Meenas and Gujjars in Rajasthan, the Congress Government in the State has convened a meeting of leaders of both the communities here this Saturday.

The Meenas and the Gujjars, who once lived in harmony sharing the same resources and geographical locations, are now estranged in the wake of the latter raising the demand for Scheduled Tribe status. The violence which followed the demand and the Meena opposition to it have claimed 70 lives in the past two years.

An equal number of 20 persons from both the communities have been invited by State Home Minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwal for the proposed dialogue to be held in the Chief Minister’s Office. At the end of the dialogue -- which would last an unspecified duration -- both groups would be invited to share a meal so that they forget the rivalries and make a new beginning.

However, political observers here attach a lot of ifs and buts to the success of Saturday’s conclave to be presided over by Mr. Dhariwal. While the list of invited leaders includes the chief protagonists of the conflict -- the Meena leader Kirorilal Meena and the Gujjar stalwart Kirori Singh Bainsla -- till late on Friday evening it was not certain whether they would be participating.

“I can tell you only tomorrow morning. Now I am on my way to Jaipur,” Col. Bainsla said when contacted by The Hindu.

While some of the Gujjar leaders, including former MLA Attar Singh Bhadana, have expressed opposition to Col. Bainsla’s participation, some find his participation essential for a thaw in the relationship between the two groups. The Government is hopeful of the participation of Dr. Meena after his offer of support to the Manmohan Singh Government at the Centre. Dr. Meena won the Dausa Lok Sabha seat in the recent elections fighting as an Independent.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, away in Mumbai, is expected to return to Jaipur by Saturday.