M A I N   N E W S

Gujjars call off agitation
Panel chaired by former judge to examine ST status

Jaipur, June 4
The week-long violent agitation by Gujjars was called off tonight after the Rajasthan government agreed to set up a high-power committee headed by a retired High Court judge to examine their demand for Scheduled Tribe status.

After three days of protracted negotiations with leaders of the Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said the talks had been “successful” and the samiti had agreed to withdraw its agitation.

The three-member committee, to be headed by a retired Rajasthan High Court judge, would examine the norms laid down for Gujjars in their current status in the OBC category and consider their representation for inclusion in the ST list, Raje told a joint press conference with the leaders of the samiti, which had spearheaded the agitation since Tuesday last.

The committee, which would have an expert on the issue of the Scheduled Tribe reservation as its secretary, would submit its report to the state government in three months, she said.

“We have withdrawn our agitation. We regret the violence and the loss of life, including those of two policemen,” in the agitation, leaders of the samiti led by Col Kirori Singh Bainsla said.

The Chief Minister also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of all those killed in the violence.

While 21 persons died in police firing and violence during the Gujjar agitation, five persons were killed in clashes between Gujjars and Meenas, who opposed the demand for the ST status. Meenas, who are in the ST category, had substantial representation in political parties and the government. Raje said the state government would move faster on the administrative and legal procedures on the issue of the Gujjar demand keeping in view the Centre’s norms and procedures.

“The talks on the Gujjar demand of shifting them from OBC to the ST category were positive and fruitful and hurdles have been overcome. We have come to an understanding and found a solution through democratic means,” she told a crowded press conference at her official residence after six hours of parleys with the samiti leaders.

A senior government official said 10-12 hours would be needed to restore normalcy in the state, which had witnessed large scale violence.

In his response to the government decision to appoint the high-power committee, Rajasthan food minister and a Meena leader, K.L. Meena, said the government had not acceded to the Gujjars’ demand for a communication to the Centre on giving ST status to the community.

“We had told the government that under no circumstances should it write to the Centre. The government has not written any letter. This is our victory,” he said.

Reacting to the understanding, Gujjar leader and Congress MP Avtar Singh Bhadana said, “We have full faith that the committee will give recommendations in our favour”.

Bainsla told the press conference that though the talks brought the “desired result”, it was most unfortunate that a number of protesters died during the agitation.

“We withdraw agitation in the nation’s interest...I from the inner core of the heart express my apology to those killed and their relatives,” the Gujjar leader said.

While Raje was assisted at today’s talks by health minister Digamber Singh at her official residence, the 11-member samiti was led by Bainsla.

Roop Singh, a senior Gujjar leader, who was part of the 11-member samiti delegation for the talks, said “with this agreement we have saved thousands of lives”. 



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