Nearly 3000 people from the tribal belt in Dungarpur district of Rajasthan are continuing their violent protests on the Udaipur Ahmedabad NH8 highway.
The Kakar-Dungri hills on the highway that passes through Dungarpur is witnessing a violent 10km blockade by members of the Scheduled Tribes in the region. Over 30 people have been arrested in the violent protests that began yesterday afternoon and the violence has not simmered down even after 24 hours.
The unruly crowd has caused a blockade across 10km of the highway causing a massive traffic jam between Dungarpur and Pratapnagar in Udaipur. Nearly 30 persons have been arrested for causing arson, torching over a dozen police and other transport vehicles and damaging public property. A hotel on the highway was looted last night and loot across shops in the area continues. Internet in the area has been shutdown.
Background of the protests
Over the last 19 days, the tribals’ in the area are protesting for filing up vacancies against the vacant general category seats for government teachers with ST candidates. The REET (Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers) is a state level test, which was last conducted in 2018, and against which 1167 seats in the general category are vacant. The passing percentage for general category in the REET examination is 60% and the passing percentage for reserved seats is 36%.
“BTP had submitted their demand for filling up the vacant posts with ST candidates and the CM had agreed when BTP extended support for the Rajya Sabha elections. The agitation has been going on peacefully since December 2019 and should not have been taken so lightly by the government. Whatever has happened is very unfortunate.” – Rajkumar Roat, BTP MLA from Chorasi (Dungarpur)
Candidates of the General Category have requested that the passing percentage of 60% be reduced to 50% so that the general category candidates can be accommodated. There is no leader representing the general category in this belt as the Dungarpur – Banswara – Pratapgarh tribal belt is a reserved category belt.
Since the 60% passing marks could not be obtained by enough candidates in the general category, 1167 posts falling under general category are still lying vacant. Leaders from the tribal belt and candidates from the scheduled tribes in the region are demanding that the 1167 vacant seats be allotted to candidates in the ST category.
The government has yet to respond to their demands and two scheduled meetings during this month have already been cancelled.
Sequence of events
After waiting in anticipation for the last 17 days, the protestors turned violent and blocked the highway with large stones yesterday afternoon. The police team, which arrived under the supervision of SP, Dungarpur to pacify the crowd and remove the blockade, was suddenly stoned from the nearby hills, in which policemen were injured. The police retaliated with tear gas and rubber pellets to disburse the unruly crowd. The matter is yet to get under control even after 24 hours of altercation.
Inspector General of Police, Udaipur range, Binita Thakur and Divisional Commissioner Vikas Bhale are assessing the situation to plan the next level of action.
The political angle
BTP MLA Rajkumar Roat said that a peaceful protest began 19 days ago. The government scheduled a meeting on September 14, which was then postponed to September 24, but was again cancelled. The cancellation letter became public and people became agitated, causing the situation on the evening of 24 September. In the first lot, around 1/3rd people came down to protest on the highway, and when police took to aggression, the remaining people also joined the violent agitation. Roat said that the police have also been overly aggressive in their treatment of the protestors – entering their homes between Bichiwada and Kherwara and damaged their property.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted that the events are unfortunate and though there is a constitutional right to a peaceful protest, no one will be allowed to take the law into their hands. He has appealed to all protestors to maintain law and order.
BJP MLA from Sawai Madhopur has agreed to intervene, but apparently has no idea that the seats under dispute are belonging to the general category. The BJP is terming this as a failure of the government. Raghuveer Meena, member of the Congress Working Committee said that the BTP and BJP are responsible for the events that are taking place today. He alleged that some leaders from the BTP and BJP are using innocent candidates from the belt to meet their political ends. All the burden has to be borne by the poor in the tribal belt. He said that a meeting between the separate factions will take place today evening, following which the situation will be brought under control.