Bayana/Jaipur, May 25 : Normal life was disrupted across Rajasthan as the Gujjar community in Bayana refused on Sunday to back down from its agitation and to speak to representatives of the Rajasthan Government, saying they were firm about wanting their Scheduled Tribe status.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje warned that her patience must not be tried, or she would be forced to order coercive action to end the current stalemate.
At least 31 persons have lost their lives since the Gujjars began their agitation on May 23. Members of the community have blocked railway lines in the state.
According to the police, thousands of protesters have blocked a railway route between Delhi and Mumbai, besides highways plying through the state.
Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsala has threatened to continue with the agitation till the community's demands are met.
"This issue has been already decided upon. After 50 deaths, nothing more is left. Now we will get up from here only when we get our recommendation letter. They can fire as much as they want. We will sit here peacefully," said Bainsala.
Bainsala said that umpteen discussions with the state government have not resulted in anything concrete, and therefore, there was a need for the Central Government to step in and resolve the issue.
Gujjars have refused to accept anything less than a concrete recommendation letter by the government accepting their demands.
The protests have also disrupted normal life in Jaipur. The state roadway has suspended its bus services as a safety measure on Agra- Jaipur and Ajmer-Jaipur route.
"We had to depart at 6:30 early in the morning for Jodhpur. But we were told that people protesting for reservation have blocked the routes hence buses will not be allowed to ply. Also we have been told to stay here till 3 p.m. Now, we are waiting for further instructions from the authorities. ... The commuters are consistently enquiring about the routes. But since buses are not plying, we are helpless. Ajmer route has been closed since six in morning to 3 in evening," said Charan Singh, a bus driver.
Three State Roadway buses have been damaged by Gujjars in the state.
Commuters were compelled to wait at the bus stops, due to non-availability of bus transport, leaving them with no alternate option.
"I came to Jaipur and from here I had to visit Agra and from there to my village. But since six in the morning, I am stranded at this bus stop. No transport mode is available still. And now I have to go back to Jodhpur as I do not expect that I would be able to move from here due to lack of transport facility on that route," said Dharmendra Singh, a commuter.
Gujjars are already considered among the low born in India's complex caste hierarchy. They want to be thought of as even lower - a so-called scheduled tribe - so they can qualify for the nearly half of all government jobs and state college seats reserved solely for the lowest castes, who tend to be poorer than their high-caste compatriots.
But a state government committee did not agree, and announced instead it would spend 2.82 billion rupees improving schools, clinics, roads and other infrastructure in Gujjar-dominated areas.
A year ago, Gujjars in Rajasthan fought police and members of another caste that already qualifies for job quotas. At least 26 people were killed in that violence.
In the past two decades, more castes and communities under Hinduism's ancient hierarchy have been demanding special quotas to garner government jobs and college places through affirmative reservation policies.