The sudden activity amid the yellow mustard fields surrounding railway tracks near Malarna station in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur district stands out from a distance. On going nearer, turbaned men are seen playing cards in makeshift tents put up across the tracks while others are heard singing rustic Rajasthani songs.
Ever since members of the Gurjar community laid siege to railway tracks in Malarna in demand of five per cent reservation on February 8, hundreds of trains in the Delhi-Mumbai route have been affected. The movement for reservation has turned violent in districts such as Dholpur, where mobs have torched vehicles.
“Five per cent liye bina nahi hatunga (Won’t leave till I get five per cent),” says 82-year-old Kirori Singh Bainsla, a retired Army officer and the convener of Gurjar Arkashan Sangharsh Samiti.
Bainsla, who has earlier spearheaded various movements of the community in demand of reservation, says that he is determined that he won’t call off the protest this time till the government accepts their demand.
“This congregation today is not chaotic, not violent, they are peaceful and their silence is deadlier than noise. I believe in non-violent means of protest. But apart from this, I don’t see any other way out. I will stop everything, give me my dues,” says Bainsla, seated on a charpai in one of the tents across the tracks.
He says that if the Centre can implement 10 per cent reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in general category within 7 days, there’s no reason why Rajasthan government can’t pass the order for 5 per cent reservation for Gurjars.
The Gurjars, who are presently entitled to 21 per cent reservation in the state under the OBC category along with 1 per cent quota under the Most Backward Caste category, have been demanding a separate reservation of 5 per cent for more than a decade now.
“We earn our livelihood by working as daily wage labourers. With our hard-earned money, we try to get our children educated in village schools, but what do we do when they can’t secure admission in reputed educational institutions due to less marks? Reservation will solve that problem,” says 55-year-old Ramphool Gurjar, one of the men at the dharna.
In the run-up to Assembly elections last year, the Congress had said in its manifesto that it is committed to providing 5 per cent reservation to Gurjar and other communities such as Raika, Banjara and Gadia Luhar the within legal purview.
“The Congress had said in a rally in Karauli last year that it is committed to providing the Gurjar community 5 per cent reservation. Why are they silent now?” says Dataram Gurjar, 24, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in education and is currently preparing for competitive exams.
Several people at the protest site also said they voted for the Congress in the Assembly elections because Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot is from the Gurjar community.
“We voted for the Congress and Sachin Pilot. He shouldn’t be silent now when we are fighting for reservation. It is because of us that the Congress could win,” said 75-year-old Chitar Gurjar.
Shailendra Singh Gurjar, general secretary of Gurjar Arkashan Sangharsh Samiti, says that in around 10 Lok Sabha seats, including Ajmer, Bhilwara, Jaipur Rural, Tonk-Sawai Madhopur and Bharatpur, the community exercises influence and it could hurt Congress prospects in the upcoming elections if the party doesn’t deliver on its promise of reservation. “It is their duty to deliver on their promise. They are trying to mislead us by passing the buck to the Centre,” said Vijay Bainsla, son of Kirori Singh Bainsla.
Gurjar agitation, farm loan waiver raised in House
The issue of protesting Gurjars and farm loan waiver reverberated through the state Assembly with BJP and other smaller parties lodging their protest when the first session of the 15th Assembly resumed here on Monday.
During the zero hour, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLAs Joginder Singh Awana and Wajib Ali stormed the well, demanding that the government make its stand on Gurjar reservation clear.
Subsequently, Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria raised the issue of loan waiver, asking the government to specify how many farmers will benefit and by how much. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal then shot back at Kataria, asking whether the previous BJP government had specified the number of beneficiaries during the launch of the loan waiver in its tenure. The BJP MLAs then stormed the well, with Kataria claiming that the BJP had indeed announced the figure — Rs 8,400 crore for 29.3 lakh farmers — at the launch. —ENS