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Rajasthan Govt Grants 5% Reservation to Gujjars After Massive Protests; Over to Centre Now

Social justice minister Bhanwarlal Meghwal said the Congress had fulfilled its pre-poll promise and the government would now talk to Gujjars and ask them to stop blocking railway tracks and highways.

News18.com

Updated:February 13, 2019, 6:30 PM IST
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New Delhi: The Rajasthan assembly on Wednesday passed a bill granting five per cent reservation in government colleges and jobs to five communities, including Gujjars, Gadia Lohars, Banjaras, Raikas and Rewaris.

The bill was introduced on the sixth day of a massive Gujjar agitation that has blocked major railway tracks and highways in the state, leading to a breakdown of transport services.

Kirori Singh Bainsla, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army and leader of the Gujjar agitation for over a decade, welcomed the move but said members of his community will analyse the bill for its legality before celebrating the decision.

Shailendra Singh, general secretary of Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, said the bill would be studied in consultation with legal experts once the organisation received a hard copy of it.

Despite the bill being passed in the assembly, the Gujjar community intends to continue the agitation on the Malarna-Dungar railway tracks.

“We have not received any official copy of the document. So we are not in a position to make a statement,” Vijay Bainsla, son of Colonel Bainsla, told News18.com.

“Our stir will continue here till we get a legally sound and systematically insulated five per cent reservation.”

The Rajasthan government said it had its bit and now the ball was in the Centre’s court. “We have passed the reservation bill, now the Centre has to make constitutional amendments,” Bhanwarlal Meghwal, minister for social justice and empowerment, told News18.com.

Meghwal said the Congress had fulfilled its pre-poll promise and the government would now talk to Gujjars and ask them to stop blocking railway tracks and highways.

Vijay said he had reached out to politicians and leaders from the community to examine the document and ensure it is foolproof.

Earlier too, in 2012, the state government had decided to provide five per cent reservation to the communities under Special Backward Classes (SBC), without touching the 21 per cent reservation available to Other Backward Classes (OBC), thus taking the overall reservation in jobs and education to 54 per cent.

In 2016, the Rajasthan high court had struck down the SBC reservation given to Gujjars and five other communities of the state, noting that the special reservation beyond the permissible limit of 50 per cent could not be granted. This time, the Gujjars want to ensure that the reservation can withstand legal scrutiny.

Meghwal, however, was confident the new reservation bill would not be struck down. “There is a difference between the two bills,” he said.

“Last time, the Centre had not provided 10 per cent reservation (to EWS). If the government of India has passed that, they must pass this too.”

The next step for the Rajasthan government is to issue a notification on the passage of the bill.

The Congress has made the 10 per cent reservation for Economically Weaker Sections the basis for the Gujjar reservation bill. The onus is now on the Centre to introduce a constitutional amendment to accommodate five per cent reservation for Gujjars in Rajasthan.

The agitation of the community over five per cent reservation in jobs and education has been going on for over 13 years in Rajasthan and has led to multiple casualties following violent clashes with police.

In 2007, five persons, including a policeman, were killed in violence that erupted during an agitation in Patoli. In May, 2008, police open fired at various places killing 16 agitators during the ‘rail roko’ stir in Peelupura. Twenty more protestors were killed in police firing at Sikandra in Dausa district.

Gujjars, led by Colonel Bainsla and his son, Vijay, have been occupying the major Delhi-Bombay railway track at Malarna-Dungar in Sawai Madhopur since Friday.

The community had given the Congress government a 20-day ultimatum after both the houses of Parliament passed the bill granting 10 per cent reservation for EWS upper caste in January without any snag.

The community had blocked railway tracks and several other major national and state highways when the deadline lapsed.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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