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Gujjar community continues protests over demand for jobs reservations

By Manoj Kumar Ramesh

Mathura (Uttar Pradesh)/Dausa (Rajasthan), Dec. 24 (ANI): Hundreds of members of the ethnic Gujjar community continue to stage protests in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan over a demand for reservation of jobs in government and educational institutions.

The Gujjars have been demanding a separate five percent quota in government jobs and educational institutions.

Shouting anti-government slogans, hundreds of protestors carrying banners and placards took out a march in Mathura district of the state on Thursday.

They threatened to block the supply of milk to neighbouring northwestern Rajasthan state and national capital New Delhi.

"We will take our five percent reservation from the state government at any cost. The milk supply from Mathura district to Rajasthan and Delhi will be disrupted. Gujjars are united for this cause," said Harcharan Singh, a Gujjar community leader.

Irate Gujjars blocked the national highway and burnt effigies.

"The government had assured us 5 percent reservation but they have not kept their word. Till the time our demand is met, we will continue with our protest. Initially the protest was at state level, now it has gone inter-state," said Sahib Singh Deshwar, a protestor.

The fresh round of agitation began on Monday (December 20) after Gujjars blocked railway tracks in Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, additional paramilitary forces have been deployed in Dausa district of Rajasthan, the epicenter of the protests.

The agitation for reservations began in 2007, during which many lives were lost.

On Wednesday, the Rajasthan High Court turned down the longstanding plea of the community on reservation.

Rejecting the petition filed by Gujjar leaders, the Court also directed the provincial government to collect data on the status of education and economic welfare of the Gujjar community within a year.

The Indian Government reserves about half of all seats in state colleges and universities for lower caste people and tribal groups to flatten centuries-old social hierarchies, in what has been called the world's biggest affirmative action scheme.

The Gujjar community comes under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category but now they seek to be reclassified under the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes (socially disadvantaged and lower caste people) grouping.

The scheme has been criticised for accentuating caste identities in India, where discrimination on caste is banned in the Constitution.

Some critics say the reservation system masks India's failure to provide good universal education and social equality.

A year ago, Gujjars in Rajasthan fought police and members of another caste that already qualifies for job reservations.

After these protests, a state government committee said it would spend rupees 2.8 billion (67 million dollars) improving schools, clinics, roads and other infrastructure in Gujjar areas. But the Gujjars rejected this option. (ANI)

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