Why are Gujjars protesting?
On October 18, Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla had given an ultimatum to the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan to accept their demands, including reservation in jobs and education as a ‘most backward class’ (MBC), or face large-scale agitation beginning November 1.
Bainsla had made this announcement at a Gujjar Mahapanchayat in Bharatpur which was called to decide the future course of action if their demands are not met.
According to the Rajasthan high court’s directives issued in 2007, the Mahapanchayat can only be held after an undertaking has been submitted to the district collector.
Also, as per the National Disaster Management Act and Rajasthan Epidemic Ordinance, 2020, during the Covid-19 crisis a congregation of more than 100 people could not be held in the state.
Who are the key leaders?
The Gujjars are divided into two groups, with one led by Gujjar leader Himmat Singh having held discussions with the state government on Saturday night, resulting in both sides signing a 14-point charter.
However, the other group, led by Bainsla, rejected this agreement and called on community members to start the agitation on Sunday.
Who is Kirori Singh Bainsla?
Kirori Singh Bainsla, who leads the Gurjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Indian Army. He has led many protests for the community earlier. He is also the brain behind DevNarayan Yojana – a government programme for the uplift of many communities.
Who is Himmat Singh?
Born on July 17, 1972, as per his Twitter profile, Himmat Singh (@himmatsinghgur1) claims to be “fighting for rights of farmers & (is a) social activist”. Himmat Singh, who hails from Dausa, has 19.4K followers on the micro-blogging site.
‘No other term and condition is acceptable’
Bainsla invited state minister Ashok Chandna, who represents the Gujjar community, to the protest site to hold discussions.
However, soon after Chandna reached the protest venue, Bainsla’s son Vijay Bainsla asked him to meet the leaders on Monday at 11 am.
“Till then, we are sitting on tracks. We had our dinner here. My father, being 85, has been sent to take rest, however, we are protesting here,” Vijay Bainsla said, adding that they would ask Chandna to issue appointment letters to community members under MBC quota and to clear the backlog of recruitments too.
“No other term and condition is acceptable to us as we have had discussions many times earlier,” he added.
What are the key demands?
The organisation is demanding that the Rajasthan government should get the Gujjars included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, fill the backlog of vacancies and give the benefit of five per cent reservation to the Most Backward Classes (MBCs) in the pending recruitment process.
The 14 points on which a consensus emerged during the talks on Saturday include providing regular pay scale to 1,252 MBC employees who have completed their probation period.
As per agency reports, the state government will once again write to the Centre to include the provision related to reservation for the MBCs in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.
Gujjar body-Rajasthan cabinet sub-panel agreement
The Gurjar Reservation Committee and the Rajasthan government’s cabinet sub-committee had agreed on 14 points following talks on Saturday.
“We had a very positive discussion and we are satisfied with the 14 points that we have agreed on. There is no need for agitation and we hope the government will meet its promises,” Himmat Singh Gurjar, leader of Gurjar faction, whose delegation met Rajasthan Minister Raghu Sharma on Saturday, had said.
Rs 5 lakh assistance
One of the important agreements is that Rs 5 lakh assistance will be given to the families of three deceased during Gurjar agitation, Kailash Gurjar, Man Singh Gurjar and Badri Gurjar and municipal jobs to one member each of their families.
What were the 2018 & 2019 bills?
Following numerous protests earlier, the Rajasthan government on October 26, 2018, passed a bill which increased the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota from 21 per cent to 26 per cent. In December 2018, the Rajasthan government also approved one per cent reservation for Gujjars and four other backward castes (OBCs).
These communities are getting one per cent separate reservation under the legal limit of 50 per cent reservation meant for the most-backward category (MBC) in addition to OBC reservation.
In February 2019, the Rajasthan Assembly passed a bill giving a five per cent quota in government jobs and educational institutes to the Gujjars and four other communities agitating for it.
Rail, bus & Internet services hit
The Delhi-Mumbai rail connectivity was affected as the Gujjars on Sunday started their agitation in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district.
As per ANI, the Railways cancelled three trains and diverted 29 trains. According to ministry officials, Kota-Hazrat Nizamuddin, Dehradun-Kota and Hazrat Nizamuddin-Kota trains have been cancelled. Trains on the Delhi-Mumbai route have been stopped, the agency added.
“The agitation will affect traffic on the Delhi-Mumbai rail route. The movement of traffic was disrupted on the Bayana-Hindaun road,” police said.
Some youths also damaged the fishplates, affecting the smooth railway traffic on the route.
The state has temporarily discontinued its bus service on the Agra-Jaipur route as a precaution. There were reports of Gujjars blocking the Bayana Hindon road route too. Meanwhile, the plying of buses was suspended in Karauli district and a huge police force was deployed in Bayana.
Internet services have been suspended in many parts of the state to ensure law and order is maintained.
How many districts in Rajasthan have been placed under NSA?
On Saturday, the state home department issued orders to district collectors of eight districts to invoke powers under the stringent National Security Act and this will be valid for three months.
As per an order issued by administrative secretary NL Meena, the districts of Bharatpur, Dholpur, Sawai Madhopur, Dausa, Tonk, Bundi and Jhalawar districts have been placed under the NSA.
‘Govt open to negotiations’
Meanwhile, the government on Monday said it was open to further negotiations with Gujjars even as the protest called by the Gurjar Aarakshan Sangarsh Samiti entered its second day.
Movement of roadways buses was stopped on Dausa, Bharatpur, Karauli, Dholpur and Hindaun routes, and road traffic movement entering from Uttar Pradesh was also affected due to the agitation.
A North-Western Railways spokesman said routes of several passenger trains were changed in the wake of the Gujjar agitation.
According to police, youths in large numbers blocked a rail track in Bayana and also damaged tracks.
The issue was also raised in the Rajasthan assembly session.
What minister Chandna, agitators and Bharatpur collector say
“I told them when all their 14 demands have been accepted and papers signed by the members of the ministerial sub-committee, there was no scope left for an agitation. When we invited them to Jaipur, they didn’t come. When they called us, we went to Hindaun, but they refused to meet us,” Chandna told TOI.
Meanwhile, Vijay Bainsla told reporters, “These papers (14-point demands) are of no significance. They are still saying that they will implement them. They have wasted our time and misguided the community. They should act now. I would also invite Gujjar MLAs to come and sit on the track. They should support the community.”
Bharatpur collector Nathmal Didel said, “Col Bainsla held a meeting around 3pm here (Pilupura). Around 400 people gathered for the meeting. Later, about 100-150 protesters sat on the Delhi-Mumbai railway line. Some are still there on the track. The government is still in talks with the Gujjars, urging them to call off the agitation. Eight companies of police have been deployed. Section 144 has been enforced and the internet will remain suspended for now.” Jaipur divisional commissioner Somanth Mishra has extended the order to suspend internet services in Jaipur district’s Kotputli, Paota, Shahpura, Viratnagar and Jamwa Ramgarh areas till November 2.
With agency inputs