Gujjar protest turns violent as police cars torched in Raj
JAIPUR: As many as six policemen were injured as Gujjar protesters demanding 5% special reservation for their community opened fire, burnt police vehicles and threw stones in Rajasthan’s Dholpur district on Sunday. The agitation, in its third day, also affected rail traffic.
VIOLENCE Section 144 imposed, three arrested; agitators threaten to intensify stir
Around half-a-dozen policemen were injured when Gujjar protesters demanding five percent special reservation for their community in government jobs and education institutes opened fire, burnt vehicles and threw stones in Rajasthan’s Dholpur district on Sunday.
Rajasthan’s Director General of Police (law and order) ML Lather, in the evening, said three cases have been registered against the agitators in Jhunjhunu and two more will be lodged in Dholpur, where the protesters burnt a police vehicle and set a police post on fire.
As a precautionary measure, authorities have imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that prohibits assembly of more than four people in an area in Dholpur and neighbouring Karauli.
Dholpur police superintendent Ajay Singh said the protesters blocked the Agra-Morena highway in Sawai Madhopur and threw stones at policemen stationed there. “The police fired tear gas shells to disperse the mob,” he said.
Singh said the protesters then entered the houses on both sides of the highway and fired using countrymade pistols. “The situation is under control and around four to six police personnel received injuries…”
Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti (GASS), which is leading the agitation for the reservation, has threatened to intensify it from Monday. Kirori Lal Bainsala, the GASS chief, said the protests will take place at more areas after an auspicious time for weddings ends on Sunday. He continued to sit on railway tracks near Malrana Dungar railway station in Sawai Madhopur along with his supporters.
Lather said adequate arrangements have been made to maintain law and order.
The agitation affected rail traffic as two trains were cancelled on Sunday. At least 20 trains were cancelled and seven diverted during the day as the protesters, led by the Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti chief Kirori Singh Bainsla, said an official of the north-western railway who was not authorised to speak to the media.
The Gujjar community launched the stir on Friday seeking the quota under the special backward classes (SBC) category saying the ruling Congress promised it in its manifesto before the 2018 assembly elections.
The state government had provided Gujjars reservation under the SBC category after similar agitations in 2007 and 2008 left dozens of people dead. The Rajasthan high court stayed the move in 2016 saying it breached the 50% limit the Supreme Court has imposed on the reservation.
The Gujjar community resumed the agitation saying the limit has been breached with the Centre giving 10% reservation to economically backward sections in January.
A non-governmental organisation challenged the 10% reservation before the Supreme Court on January 10 saying it breaches the 50% cap.
The Rajasthan government has maintained that the Centre alone can provide the five percent EBC reservation to Gujjars.
The pastoral community, which accounts for roughly five percent of Rajasthan’s population, gets one percent reservation under the Most Backward Class (MBC) category. It also gets quota benefits under the Other Backward Class category.
Rajasthan health minister Raghu Sharma, who is a member of the ministerial committee constituted to hold talks with the Gujjar leaders, said the government’s intentions are clear and that “doors for talks are open.”