Gujjars block railway tracks in Rajasthan demanding 5% quota

Rajasthan government forms committee to hold talks with protesters but puts the onus on the Centre

February 09, 2019 01:01 am | Updated 01:25 am IST - JAIPUR

Members of Gujjar community hold a dharna in Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan on Friday.

Members of Gujjar community hold a dharna in Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan on Friday.

Hundreds of Gujjars blocked the railway tracks in Rajasthan's Sawai Madhopur district on Friday, demanding 5% reservation in government jobs and education, throwing railway traffic out of gear. The West Central Railway partially cancelled several trains, while about 20 trains running on the Delhi-Mumbai route were diverted.

Gujjar supremo Kirori Singh Bainsla led the agitation after holding a ‘mahapanchayat’ (grand assembly) at Malarna Dungar village under the Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti banner. He had earlier given a 20-day ultimatum to the State government to accept the demand for quota, failing which he had threatened to revive the 11-year-old agitation.

A fight to the finish

Col. Bainsla and his supporters staged a sit-in on the railway tracks while declaring that any talks with the State government would be held “only on the spot”. Though Gujjars, along with nomadic communities Banjara, Gadia-Lohar, Raika and Gadariya, have been included in the State’s OBC category since 1994, they are demanding the quota's sub-categorisation with 5% provision for them.

“This is going to be a fight to the finish, though it will be completely peaceful. I have not come here [on my own], but the crowd has brought me on the railway tracks. People cannot be fooled all the time,” Col. Bainsla told reporters at the site, as the protesters set up campfires to beat the cold and spend the night under open sky.

Despite his claim of leading a “peaceful agitation”, there were reports of the protesters uprooting the railway tracks at Kothadi Gate. The Railway Protection Force was pressed into service at Sawai Madhopur, Bayana, Bharatpur and Hindon railway stations and 17 companies of Rajasthan Armed Constabulary were posted in eight districts as a precautionary measure.

Three-member committee

After an emergency meeting in the Chief Minister's Office here to find ways to pacify Gujjars, a committee comprising Ministers Raghu Sharma, Vishvendra Singh and Bhanwarlal Mehgwal was appointed to hold talks with the agitators.

CM Ashok Gehlot, who was in Jalore district's Sanchore town to distribute loan waiver certificates to farmers said the State government had already done for Gujjars whatever was in its power. “Any decision for creating the Special Backward Class category for Gujjars and four other communities is now in the Centre's jurisdiction,” he said.

High Court hurdle

Gujjars are at present getting 1% reservation in the “most backward” category, in addition to the OBC quota, within the 50% ceiling mandated by the Supreme Court. Along with four other nomadic communities, they were earlier grouped as a Special Backward Class and the State government had tried thrice to grant them 5% reservation.

However, the legislation was struck down every time by the Rajasthan High Court, which ruled that the quota had not only exceeded the 50% limit, but was also not supported by the quantifiable data.

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