GURJARS … Gurjars back in agitation path seeking reservation benefits; block roads, rails in Rajasthan


NEWS GURJARS RESERVATION 

KS Shankar


KS Shankar/IHN-NN

NEW DELHI: The Gurjar (pastoral) community is back on the agitation path in Rajasthan, pressing the demand for reservation in jobs and education on the ground of them being of the most backward in the society. Rail and road connectivity remains disrupted for the fourth consecutive day as agitators blocked the Delhi-Mumbai main rail route, leading to diversion of several trains from normal routes and affecting normal life in the state.

The protesters of the Gurjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti led by Kirori Singh Bainsla and his son Vijay Bainsala resumed their agitation on November 1 and blocked the Delhi-Mumbai rail route passing Peelupura village of Bharatpur district. Trains along the route were diverted thereafter through other routes to reach their destinations. As many as 17 passenger trains and 25 good trains were diverted, officials said.

The organisation is demanding that the state government get the Gurjar reservation included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, fill the backlog of vacancies and give the benefit of five per cent reservation to the MBCs in the pending recruitment process. A consensus emerged on 14 points during the talks on October 31.

The government agreed to provide regular pay scale to 1,252 MBC employees who have completed their probation period. It also promised  4 per cent reservation in recruitments to11 job sets. These include:  1. REET Recruitment Exam 2018 (2160 seats); 2. Rajasthan Police Recruitment Exam 2018 (400 seats); 3. Panchayati Raj LDC Recruitment Examination 2013 (785 seats); 4.Nursing Recruitment Examination 2013 (300 seats); 5. Second Grade Teacher Recruitment Exam 2016 (320 seats); 6. Paramedical Recruitment Examination 2018 (200 seats); 7. Commercial Assistant Recruitment Exam (84 seats); 8.Jail Sentinel Recruitment Exam 2018 (36 seats); 9.Technical Helper Exam 2018 (96 seats);10. Junior Accountant Recruitment Examination 133 (133 seats); and 11.Drugs Controller Officer (02 seats).

The members of the community said it did not receive the benefit of even 1 per cent in the recruitment of woman supervisors in 2016. As per 5 per cent reservation for Gurjar, a total 1,226 posts were meant to be reserved for the community. A reservation of four per cent to be given to MBC class in 11 recruitments. In these recruitments, 1 per cent reservation has been given. The Gurjar Samaj is agitating for getting the remaining 4,542 posts for the community.

GURJAR HISTORY

The Gurjars are a pastoral and agricultural community that used to be nomadic but many now live in settled communities. The word Gurjar is derived from the term gaucharana, meaning those who graze cows. They are a well-built people, medium-to-tall in stature. The community existed in north-western parts of India, as also in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They were known as Gurjaras in the Medieval times.

The Gurjar kingdom existed in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat and western Uttar Pradesh from 5AD to the 8th-9th Centuries AD. With the Muslim invasions from 11th Century AD, the kingdom disintegrated and many Gurjars converted to Islam, forcing others to flee to the foothills of Punjab and the hills of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, etc. and lead nomadic lives.

Under the provisions of the Indian Constitution, the Gurjars or Gujjars are notified as a Scheduled Tribe (ST) in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. This listing grants them special benefits like fixed quotas in government jobs and higher educational institutions as well as lower benchmarks in competitive examinations. The Gurjars regard themselves as equivalent to the Jat, Ahir and Rajput in social status, but are, in fact, considered below the Jat and the Rajput by these communities.

Gurjars now mostly practise agriculture and animal husbandry, rearing cows, buffaloes and sheep. They sell milk and milk products in the market mostly through middlemen. The principal crops grown by the Gujjar include wheat, gram and maize. They also grow pulses, vegetables and sugarcane besides green fodder for cattle.

Some educated Gurjars are in government or private service, while a few work as daily wage labourers. In some urban centres like Delhi and Chandigarh, many Gurjars run petty businesses like grocery shops, and some work as contractors and traders. In Punjab, they have set up dairy farms. There are also businessmen, artists, defense and police personnel, political leaders and professionals among the Gurjars.


MUSLIM GURJARS

There are many Muslim Gurjars in Bulandshahr, Saharanpur, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar districts of Uttar Pradesh and large concentrations in Dehradun, Tehri Garhwal and Haridwar districts of Uttarakhand. They migrated there at the turn of the 19th Century and are landless and nomadic, living in rudimentary thatched huts in remote, inaccessible forests where they graze their cattle. They do not have any social interaction with other Hindu Gurjars or other Muslims, though they share mosques and shrines with them and occasionally participate in festivities and functions.

AGITATION NOW

Compared to agitations during the earlier years, the protesters are now divided into two factions — one led by Kirori Singh Bainsla and his son Vijay Bainsla, and the other by Himmat Singh. On October 18, Kirori Singh Bainsla had given an ultimatum to the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan to accept their demands before November 1, including in matters of reservation in jobs and education, by treating the community as a Most Backward Class or face large-scale agitation.

Kirori Singh Bainsla, who leads the Gurjar Aarakshan Sangharsh, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel and has led many protests for the community in the past for job reservations. The Gurjar Reservation Committee and the Rajasthan Cabinet Sub-Committee had agreed to 14 points following November 1 talks. 

The Rajasthan Government had on October 18 passed a bill that increased the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota from 21 per cent to 26 per cent. In December 2018, the state government also approved one per cent reservation for Gurjars and four OBCs.

Given this division among leaders of the Gurjar community, the threat of obstruction to rail and road traffic by agitating Gurjars gradually fizzled out. While the faction led by Col Bainsla remained in Bharatpur and went ahead with their agitation on Sunday, the fear and tension in the air got dissolved. For the moment, the Gehlot government has ensured that the agitation did not flare up and disruption to rail and road traffic was prevented in Rajasthan.


AGITATIONS, DEATHS

In the past, Gurjar agitations have often been violent and over 70 people died in protests in the past. The Gurjar community members in Rajasthan have been agitating during 2008, and in later years too. On May 23, 2008, violence erupted in Rajasthan when police fired on protesters belonging to the Gurjar caste who were demanding a special status under India’s reservation system. The protesters, in retaliation, lynched a policeman in the Bharatpur district. Police shot at protesters as they tried to damage railway lines and government property. At least 15 people had been killed on the spot.

On 24 May, the Indian army was called in to help calm the violence as another 15 people were killed when police shot at a mob of protesters trying to torch a police station in Sikandra. Thousands of protesters blocked a rail route between Delhi and Mumbai. Highways had also been blocked, and state authorities cancelled many buses. 

PAST AGITATIONS

Not getting any response from the government for their demand of a five percent quota for government jobs, Gurjars again went on an agitation in 2010. They jammed trains on the Jaipur-Delhi and Mumbai-Delhi routes. Unlike the unrest in 2008, there was no violence in 2010. In May 2015, a similar protest was organised and thousands of Gujjars blocked railway tracks halting train traffic.

In 2007, Gurjars in Rajasthan fought police and members of the Meena tribe that had already qualified for Scheduled Tribe benefits and is opposed to Gurjars sharing the benefits it has cornered for itself. At least 26 people were killed in that violence. In the wake of the ongoing Gurjar agitation in neighbouring Rajasthan, a high alert had been sounded in the border districts of Madhya Pradesh to check any spread of violence. The agitation finally ended after the then Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasnundhara Raje agreed on a 5 per cent reservation under a new special category.

Now, as also in the past, the Gujjar community mainly targets the Jaipur-Delhi, Jaipur-Agra, and the Mumbai-Delhi transport routes as they believe it would capture the attention of the government and media altogether, and they resort to violence when security forces try to clear the roads and railways. 

YEARS OF NEGLECT OF GURJARS

The Gurjar agitation is the outcome of years of neglect of the community by successive governments, in addressing the demands of Gurjars for their educational and economic progress. According to the Gurjar leaders, their demands were just and they deserved reservation as the main occupation of Gurjars in areas where they lived in a majority (Karauli, Bharatpur, Sawai Madhopur, Dausa, Dholpur) was agriculture and animal husbandry. They say they were deprived of reservations due to the political influence of rival communities who were not willing to share the benefits of reservation with the Gurjars, The Gurjar vote bank was considered to be smaller compared to those of other communities. –IHN-NN


INDIA HERE AND NOW 

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