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Gujjar protests for quota: 14 trains cancelled in Rajasthan's Kota as community stages dharna on railway tracks

Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla and his supporters on Friday began a sit-in protest on rail tracks in Rajasthan's Sawai Madhopur district, forcing authorities to divert trains. The protesters are demanding five percent reservation for Gujjars, Raika-Rebari, Gadia Luhar, Banjara and Gadaria communities in government jobs and educational institutions.

According to reports, four trains have been diverted and 14 cancelled. ANI tweeted that the diversions and cancellations were all "between Sawai Madhopur to Bayana section and Nimoda to Malarna block section in Kota Division of Western Central Railway." Initially, five trains had been cancelled in the Kota division, while one had been diverted.

Sources said that the protesters also blocked a section of the Delhi-Mumbai route. Reportedly, trains going to Delhi were diverted via Mathura and Bharatpur and the state government has also postponed exams for Anganwadi and agriculture supervisors.

Abhay Sharma, chief public relations officer of the North Western Railway, was also quoted by PTI as having noted that train movement had been affected in the area due to the protests. He added that seven of the 14 cancellations were in the Sawai Madhopur to Bayana section.

As the dharna continued at Malarna Doongar — around 125 kilometres southeast of Jaipur — Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot appealed to the people to maintain peace and that his government was ready to hold talks. "The government is serious in resolving the issue. The Congress government had heard the issues in the previous tenure and made efforts at the state level. I appeal to people to maintain peace," he added.

Congress sources said a committee, comprising Health Minister Raghu Sharma, Tourism Minister Vishvendra Singh, Social Justice Minister Master Bhanwar Lal and senior government officials, had been constituted to hold talks with the agitators.

Additional forces have been deployed in the Bharatpur police range — within which Sawai Madhopur falls — to tackle any law-and-order situations that might arise. "Seventeen RAC (Rajasthan Armed Constabulary) companies, including a special task force, have been deployed in the range," Bhupendra Sahu, inspector general of Bharatpur Range, said.

"Senior police officers, who have the experience of working in the area, have been assigned duties. The situation is completely under control," Sahu added.

Bainsla, who heads the Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, told reporters that he was compelled to organise the protest as "things are changing fast". "I have not come here (on his own volition), but the crowd has brought me to the railway tracks. People cannot be fooled all the time. It is a fight to do or die. The state government should stand on its promise. It will be a peaceful protest. I will lead the protest and the youths will support," he said.

Bainsla had last month gave a 20-day ultimatum to the state government to clear its stand over the reservation demand, failing which he threatened to revive the quota agitation. As the deadline lapsed on Friday, Bainsla held a "maha panchayat" at Malarna Doongar and started the sit-in. At present, five communities get a one percent reservation due to their inclusion in the most-backward category in addition to the Other Backward Class (OBC) quota.  

With inputs from agencies and 101 Reporters

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Updated Date: Feb 10, 2019 11:39:53 IST

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