Democracy is potentially the most effective constitutional tool, which guarantees equality in terms of rights and empowers the countrymen; a cause which for a few countries in contemporary times, if achieved, will be nothing less than a blessing. It is immensely humiliating and shameful to witness how this robust tool is being used in one of the most destructive manners.
The “gujjar saga” – as I may call it, is a situation that reveals paradox to the zenith in my view. Within the Indian society, those generally referred to as ‘upper castes’ are theoretically supposed to be the ones privileged, the people that command respect and recognition on the move – a status desired by all. But here we see a community that desires a downward gradation of their status so as to gain preferential treatment.
On May 23, the hellish rioting began in Rajasthan, which in a week’s time grew like a demon and spread across Kota, Jaipur, Bharatpur and Bikaner divisions of the state; the main centers being Kishangarh, Bhiwadi, Kotputali, Bundi, Jhalawar, Kota, Sikandra and Bharatpur. The community lost 39 of its fellow members, including women. The protestors brusquely expressed that neither beatings nor bullets could stir them. In their view, had they not resorted to violence the authorities would have ignored their claims. Seeing people embracing violence with such conviction is extremely heart rending; the radiantly shining white felted fabric of peace and non violence that implicitly covers the nation was stripped off by these predators of peace.
Who are the “these” who behave like enemies of peace? If we look at the intervention of Human Rights Commission of the UN which called for an independent and impartial investigation into the last month’s violent clash between the security forces and the Gujjar community, it seems that the authority and the law makers are to blame and are the ones causing bloodshed by killing innocent people in random firings.
On the other hand, if we were to look at the happenings such as those where :
-In the capital, normalcy of life was disrupted by the rail road blockade enforced by the members of the community. The highways in and around NCR were being stone pelted and squatted on while burning tyres, the Northern railways cancelled ten trains, more than 35,000 police personnel, including those from the central paramilitary forces, were deployed in Delhi and surrounding areas, particularly in Gujjar-dominated areas;
-Regular clashes between the police forces and the agitators led to loss of lives in places like Panipat, Bharatpur and Sikandra where a mob attacked a thana and set fire to vehicles, provoking the police to shoot. It seems that it is this ruthless and demanding community catalyising the shambles.
Chairman Rajasthan Arakshan Samiti Col Kirori Singh Bainsala, who emerged as the savior of the community, who was fighting for the cause that the community be moved to the bottom of the society, appeared to be an indecisive and unsure figure.
Unmoved by all the anarchy, he initially refused to negotiate with the Vaundhara Raje regime, his belief being that entering into dialogue with the state government was an utter wastage of time, when the solution is as simple as adhering to the wants of the community. But later in the month of May, he agreed to talk to the Chief Minister seeing the ‘suppression at any cost’ attitude of the state. The gujjar patriarch who himself was in a state of uncertainity went on to the extent of suggesting the Centre that the reservation system itslef needs a review and renewal measures should be taken.
A demonstration of what politically driven motives ultimately lead to could be seen when the agitation which was almost a month long was finally called off on Wednesday June 18, 2008 : the day which saw the display of surreal camaraderie between Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Col. Bainsala. The Rajasthan government decided to grant 5 per cent special quota in the OBC category over and above the existing quota for the Gujjars
With assembly polls due in six months, this is a sure shot cynical move that reveals the political pressure on the Chief Minister and the ulterior motive of the ruling party to nurture “vote banks” and to further create divisive social fissures.