As a blazing sun bakes the nearly-naked landscape at about 46 degrees Celsius, hundreds of men belonging to the Gujjar community are sitting along a stretch of the Delhi-Mumbai railway tracks. While most seek refuge from the heat under straw shacks, some squat on the extremely hot iron rail tracks, testing their own, and the government’s patience. They shout slogans, sing protest songs with gaiety and explain their demands enthusiastically to media persons. Younger members of the community are more interested in recording their own little revolution on cheap smartphones.
This is Gujjar agitation 4.0.
“We have given innumerable soldiers to this country. We have fought in World Wars I and II and all wars India has since fought. We know how to maintain discipline, and we also know how to fight,” says Jagram Singh (67), an ex-army man sitting near the rail tracks. Sohan Lal (70), from Gangapur City, echoes the views of his brethren.
“Right now we are demanding our rights peacefully. But this government seems to be testing us. We don’t want violence but let it be clear: we will not shy away from it if we are pushed to a corner,” he says.
The Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government has formed a three-member cabinet sub-group comprising senior ministers Rajendra Rathore, Hem Singh Bhadana and Arun Chaturvedi to talk to the protesting Gujjars.
But the community does not seem satisfied.
“There have been nine rounds of talks. All that successive governments have done is talk. Now the time for talks is over. This time, it is a fight to the finish,” says Bunty Gurjar, youth president of Kirori Singh Bainsla-led Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti. Community members say they want Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene.
“Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji resolved the Jat reservation matter in 24 hours. If we had protested OBC reservation to Jats, there would have been trouble. But we did not since it was a valid demand,” says Ram Lal, a young Gujjar man from Tonk.
“If the state government wants Rajasthan to burn, so be it. But we won’t leave here till our demands are accepted,” he says.
With only 1,000 community members at Pilupura, and about 300 blocking the rail tracks, the agitation did not seem to be getting the support it received in its previous editions in 2007, 2008 and 2010.