New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The situation Karauli close to Dausa, in Rajasthan 80 kilometres from Jaipur remains tense following yesterday’s police crackdown on protesters from Gujjar tribes, who had organised a sit in on the national Jaipur-Agra road. The area is now under army control while members of the government debate the incident; some are calling for an immediate investigation, others are down-playing it.
Unrest continues, despite the presence of thousands of men patrolling the important Jaipur-Agra road. In Dausa protesters continue to block streets and have set two police stations on fire. Streets have also been blocked and shops damaged in protests in other areas.
The Gujjar community is asking for ST or “Superior Tribe” status, which would give them access to public employment and a quota of places in State schools and collages. It is a tribe of nomads, spread throughout the Nation, which until now has been considered an inferior tribe. Yesterday in Karauli, police rushed a crowd of 30 thousand protesters after they refused to obey a dispersal order. Armed with batons and tear gas they eventually opened fire on the resistant crowd. Protesters reacted by attacking the police vehicles. Many raided the nearby police station in Sikandara, setting it on fire and killing two officers. Similar events occurred in Bundi, 250 kilometres from Jaipur, as well as clashes in Jaipur, Tonk, and Sawai Madhopur.
Only hour’s later State home minister Gulab Chand Kataria admitted that, “Six civilians and two policemen died in Dausa.” “Six villagers and one policeman died in Bundi. There is no information about the four policemen who were abducted by the crowd”.
The Gujjar claim that their rights are being ignored after the death of their leader Rajesh Pilot and that the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has reneged on what is often described as her 2003 Assembly poll promise to grant ST status to them. Already September 3rd last the Gujjar rose in protest, de-railing railway tracks in Hindaun, Karauli district. At the time a compromise was reached, by the government is accused of failing to follow through in their pledges.
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata (Bjp) led state government appears divided. Its premier Raje speaks of unrest caused by an organised group and says “violations of the law will not be tolerated”. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Bjp spokesman has described it as an “unfortunate incident” but has not condemned the police firing nor demanded a probe into it.
Instead BJP vice-president Sahib Singh Verma, “condemns the police for having opened fire” and has demanded “There should be a high-level inquiry” into events.
HK Dahmor, Chief administrator of Dausa, says that “the police tried to negotiate”. Police sources say they opened fire for self defence purposes and arrested over 300 people.
But tribal leader Avinash Badana told the television that the police opened fire on “defenceless demonstrators”. (NC)