Mali community in Rajasthan continue to block highway over separate quota demand

Jaipur: Members of the Mali community continued block the Jaipur-Agra National Highway in Bharatpur for the sixth consecutive day on Wednesday demanding separate reservation, even as the Rajasthan government “agreed” to look into their demands.

A delegation of the community led by its leader Murari Lal Saini met Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot at his residence here on Tuesday, but the protestors have not vacated the highway as yet.

The protestors have also not yet allowed to get the post mortem done of a man belonging to the community who allegedly hanged himself from a tree near the protest site over the quota issue, police said. They added that the family members of the deceased refused to take the body and demanded compensation and a government job.

For those commuting between Jaipur and Agra, traffic has been diverted on alternative routes to avoid congestion, officials said.

“The protest is ongoing. It is limited to the place from where it had started and the situation is under control. Talks are being held with the members of the Mali community to break the deadlock,” Bharatpur collector Alok Ranjan said.

Members of the Mali community, which falls in the OBC category, are demanding a separate 12 per cent reservation, the formation of a separate Luv Kush Welfare Board and hostel facilities for the children of the community among others.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also belongs to the Mali community.

On Friday, the protesters blocked the key Jaipur-Agra National Highway in Bharatpur and pelted stones at police personnel who retaliated by firing tear gas shells to control the mob.

Following this, the police had put up barricades on the national highway in Ballabgarh, Halaina, Vair, Arauda, and Ramaspur villages.

Honouring social reformer Mahatma Jyotiba Phule who belonged to the Mali community, the state government had recently formed the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Welfare Board and declared April 11 as a state holiday commemorating the late leader’s birth anniversary.

The Mali community held held a similar protest in June last year, which was pacified after assurances.