A marginalised community in Rajasthan demands reservation, inconveniences local villagers.
More than half of Sunita’s village consists of members of the Gurjar community. They belong to the lowest rungs of the caste ladder, and have been demanding appropriate reservation percentages in public spheres – an allocation of seats in public offices, universities and other institutions. About four to five years ago, the Gurjars held a protest which turned violent. Sunita tells us that she had travelled out of Karauli the day the strike began, and she couldn’t return for eight days. That time, they burnt buses and destroyed the police headquarters. This time, things were more peaceful because both the local people and the police were aware of what destruction was possible, and immediately shut down everything to avert disaster.
But things were still problematic, and Sunita says she couldn’t drink tea for days because the price of milk shot up to three times its normal cost. They demanded a 4% increase in the reservation allocation. They jammed the roads and staged protests in the main centres of Karauli, insisting that their message be taken to the Chief Minister. Sunita believes there are other ways of addressing their concerns. “If you have an issue, why don’t you fight with the government, why are you fighting with us normal people? All of us have problems, it doesn’t mean we go and make everyone else’s lives miserable. If they have the time to walk around with lathis, they have the time to sit in a government office,” Sunita says.
Sunita, who is currently at a Video Volunteers training camp in Goa, says that until now there have been no new developments regarding the reservation issue. “Their requests are lying with the court. We’ll see what happens.”