Gujjar Agitation in Rajasthan : The Complete Story
This article covers the whole chain of events that led to recent Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan which was the third stir by the community since 2007
After almost 2 and half years, Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan is back in news as thousand of people from Gujjar caste have began protests in Bharatpur district demanding 5 % reservations in government jobs. The agitation was in news in 2007 and 2008 when clashes with police force had resulted into few deaths as well. Now, when the Gujjars have again decided to agitate by laying siege to railways tracks and highways, it is time to take a look at the whole chain of events along with the points which led to such confrontation between Rajasthan Govt. and Gujjars.
Why are Gujjars Demanding Reservation?
Gujjars, which are also known as Gurjars, come under Other Backward Classes (OBC) in Rajasthan. They have a major presence in Dausa, Sawai Madhopur, Karauli and Bharatpur districts. Unlike few other states, the Gujjars of Rajasthan do not enjoy economic and political clout as few other castes in OBC. Most of the Gujjars are based in villages and are involved in farming and keeping cattle. Owing to presence of powerful castes like Jat, Mali and Bishnoi in OBCs, Gujjars have felt that the youth of their community is not able to make much use of the 27 % reservations given to OBCs. They also feel themselves lagging behind in education which eventually affects their job prospects even after reservations. Their initial demand was to include them in Scheduled Tribes (ST) category which already has Meena community.
Who is Kirori Singh Bainsla
Kirori Singh Bainsla is the leader of Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti and has been the spearhead of the whole agitation that has taken place so far since 2007. Bainsla, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, is the central figure of the Gujjar agitation. He has played the instrumental role in bringing Gujjar people and various Gujjar leaders under the umbrella of the common cause of getting reservation for their community. He had stated in his interview with Washington Post that Gujjars were unable to compete with so little education and money in the OBC category where as many as 123 castes are present. That is why he had come up with the agitation plan to make govt. aware about their plight and include them in ST category where very few groups are present. Bainsla had even fought assembly election of Rajasthan in 2008 but had lost.
First Agitation in 2007
Gujjars had begun demanding ST status as early as 2006. But the first major Gujjar agitation took place in the year 2007 when thousands of Gujjars under the leadership of Kirori Singh Bainsla laid siege to railway tracks and roads. Their demand to state govt. was to include them in ST category. Their demand came in sharp criticism from Meena community, the biggest beneficiary in Rajasthan in ST. it led to clash between two communities apart from the clash between the protesters and the state authorities. It led to deaths of 26 persons. The protests, which continued for more than a week, ended only after then Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje agreed to set up a committee to look into the demands of Gujjars. Justice Chopra committee was set up for this purpose. The protest was then called off.
Second Agitation in 2008
Justice Chopra committee rejected Gujjars demand in the month of December in 2007. Following that animosity between Gujjars and BJP led state government increased. It led to second agitation of the Gujjars in the summers of 2008. This time the stir continued for almost a month, i.e. between 23rd of May to 17th June 2008. The agitation was more violent and widespread this time as Indian army was called in to handle the situation. Unlike last time, clashes between Gujjars and Meena community didn't take place this time. The stir ended after Vasundhara Raje govt. agreed to give 5 % reservation to the Gujjar community under a special category.
The protests this time resulted into death of 37 persons, most of who died in confrontations. Apart from these casualties, many other people were injured and public property worth crores was destroyed. Gujjars finally let go of demand of inclusion in ST category and instead asked for providing 5 % reservation to Gadia Luhars, Rebaris and Banjaras along with Gujjars in the special category. In the month of July in 2008, Gujjar quota bill was finally passed in the assembly.
Third Agitation in 2010
The ground for the third agitation which is going on presently was prepared last year when in the month of October High court stayed the provisioning of the 5% reservation to Gujjars. The reason was pretty straightforward. The implementation of this reservation policy would have resulted into reservation going past 50 % in state which is unconstitutional as the reservation should not exceed beyond 50% in normal circumstances. In few states like Maharashtra, reservation beyond 50% has been allowed in special circumstances. By this time the govt. too had changed in the state and Congress's Ashok Gehlot had become the new Chief Minister.
In the month of May this year, Rajasthan Govt. granted 1% quota to the Gujjars and asked the community for the decision on rest 4% after the court's judgment. The Govt. had promised to put forward the case of the community strongly in Rajasthan High Court. For this purpose a committee was to be set up to speed up the legal processes. But not a single hearing of the case took place till December 22nd. So, after a lull for more than 2 years, Gujjars began the stir again on December 20th in Pilupura of Bharatpur district.
The high court turned down the Gujjars' plea for 5 % quota in govt. jobs on December 22nd. Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Mahesh Bhagwati gave the decision on the basis that there was no irrefutable data which could justify the granting of 5% reservations to the Gujjars. The bench has also asked the state govt. to establish within next one year the backwardness of Gujjars and other castes included in the special 5% reservation category.
Consequences of Agitation
The 3 separate agitations within a span of last 3.5 years have resulted into more than 50 deaths, hundreds of injured and heavy damages to the property. In the year 2008 the agitation had engulfed national capital Delhi too as 200 Gujjars were detained there after they disrupted the traffic. Railways was the worst sufferer as not only its property was damaged, but it had to face a lot of problem as routes of many trains had to be changed. General public had to bear the brunt the most as they were the eventual victims for no fault of theirs. Both BJP and Congress govt. failed to find a permanent solution to the problem and Rajasthan state has yet again been thrown into a cauldron of unrest.
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