Gujjar agitation crosses
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Gujjar agitation crosses Rajasthans boundaries
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Gujjar agitation crosses Rajasthans boundaries

National Highways between Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan on Thursday were blocked as Gujjars demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, indulged in acts of violence and arson.

Jaipur, May 31 : National Highways between Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan on Thursday were blocked as Gujjars demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, indulged in acts of violence and arson.

Two persons were killed and five others injured in a violent clash between security forces and Gujjar protestors in Rajasthan's Sawai Madhopur District taking the total death toll to 18.

Reports of protestors torching Government properties and vehicles came in from Kota, Sawai Madhopur and Dausa, where the trouble originally started on Tuesday.

In Bharatpur, protestors went on rampage burning cars and damaging railway tracks.

"In the morning protestors damaged a railway crossing. But now the situation is under control. We have an army unit and have staged a flag march," said Rajendra Kumar Verma, Additional District Magistrate.

Many districts of eastern Rajasthan, including Dausa, Bharatpur, Karauli and Kota reported incidents of arson and violence during a shutdown called by Gujjars today.

Gujjar protestors torched police posts in Kota and Bharatpur and also damaged railway tracks, which affected train traffic in these parts. Traffic has been disrupted on the Ajmer-Jaipur highway.

Protests also spilled over to Yamunanagar in Haryana where hundreds of protesters were baton charged by policemen.

"As soon as we arrived there with an effigy of Vasundhara Raje. The police snatched it from us and started baton charging us. Five of our people were injured in the incident. Our people are very angry over the incident," Thakur Singh, a Gujjar leader said.

About 9,000 trucks have been stranded at various points along the National Highways passing through the State.

In the absence of food, water and other minimum amenities, passengers have taken shelter on roadsides.

"It's been three days since the agitation began and we are facing a number of problems. The bus operators have been giving us food but there is no provision to take a bath... we have to go to a nearby tank to get drinking water, and we have to sleep under the trucks at night," said Preeti, a stranded passenger.

Even the truck-drivers are frustrated with cash fast-running out and noespite to the blockade in sight.

"This is my fourth night,since I have been stuck here. Hotels in the vicinity have started charging heavily. And now I am short of money. There is no provision for food, water or anything else. We are facing a lot of problems," said Gopal Singh, one of the truck drivers.

According to estimates of the Federation of Rajasthan Trade and Industry (FORTI), the loss of revenue per day for the Government is estimated to be nearly 50 million rupees.

The Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation (RSRTC) has deferred its bus operations on Jaipur-Kota-Jhalawar, Jaipur-Delhi, Jaipur-Agra, Jaipur-Sikar and other routes linked with the troubled routes.

Security has been beefed up and Rajasthan pre-engineering tests have also been postponed due to the shutdown.

Army has been called to assist the civil administration.

Additional Director General of Police Navdeep Singh said that six army columns consisting of 600 army personnel have been deployed along the National Highway 8 from Chandwaji to Behror on the Delhi-Jaipur Highway.

The Army is also patrolling the Higways passing through Dausa and Kotputali, which are Gujjar strongholds.

Singh also said that four columns of army were also deployed in Dholpur and Bundi. The Army also carried out flag march in Kota.

The protest has spread to at least 21 Districts of the State and has even reached the doorsteps of Delhi.

Groups of Gujjar youths protested in parts of Faridabad, the Delhi-Noida toll road and in Delhi.

Nearly 200 Gujjars blocked the road between Gurgaon and Faridabad this morning, burning tyres and wood.

The road was blocked for two hours but no one was injured. The Delhi-Dehradun National Highway 58 was also blocked.

Putting further pressure on Vasundhara Raje, Panchayati Raj Minister Kalu Lal Gujjar and five legislators of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have threatened to resign in the wake of Tuesday`s violence in Bundi and Patauli near Dausa.

In another major development, the Meenas, who are also a Schedule Tribe (ST) of Rajasthan, have threatened to launch an agitation if Gujjars are included in ST list.

The Meena MLA's are meeting in Jaipur today to counter the agitation by the Gujjars. They fear that if the Gujjars are given the ST statuts, the Meenas would lose some of the seats reserved form them.

Agitating Gujjars have said that they will hold talks only with Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. Some Gujjar leaders have reached Jaipur for the same.

On Wednesday, talks between Raje's emissary Vishvendra Singh, who is also the Member of Parliament from Bharatpur, and Gujjar leaders had failed.

The Gujjar leadership said that withdrawing their agitation was not a possibility till their demand was met.

Meanwhile, the Union Home Ministry held an emergency meeting on the situation in Rajasthan.

The protests began on Tuesday in support of the Gujjar community's demand for ST status as promised by the BJP. The agitation has also got politicised with Chief Minister Raje saying she did not make any such promise and that decision could only be taken by the Centre.

Raje termed the clashes as 'unfortunate', but did not announce compensation for the victims. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress have traded charges and counter-charges over the incident.

The community currently comes under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

The issue of job and education quotas for lower castes and tribal people has often sparked controversy and protests in India.

ANI

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