DHARAMSALA: In a surprise move, the Himachal Pradesh government on Friday announced formation of Swaran Ayog Commission in the state after thousands of protesters from upper caste community laid a siege around the Vidhan Sabha building on the first day of winter session in Dharamsala.
Activists from a loosely-formed outfit Swaran Morcha had reached this hill town from various parts of the state.
They had first organised a march on foot from Shimla to Haridwar covering hundreds of kilometres. It was to conclude in Dharamsala on the opening day of the Himachal Pradesh state Assembly’s winter session.
“All went as planned and the association activists, estimated to be more than 10,000, converged near the Vidhan Sabha complex in Tapovan (Dharamsala),” said a protester.
HP Chief Secretary Ram Subagh Singh and DGP Sanjay Kundu had to come out together to pacify the protesters.
Amid indications that protests could flare up, CM Jairam Thakur too joined his officials to announce that a commission to look into welfare of upper caste community would be formed.
“The government will bring a Bill in the Budget session to constitute a Swaran Aayog,” the CM said.
BJP has enjoyed the support of upper caste as much as Congress has enjoyed. It was ex Congress CM Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh who had first raised this demand during last session.
Several interactions by The New Indian team on ground revealed that unhappiness over unemployment and dwindling fiscal prospects in the Rajput-dominated rural belts of Sirmaur district first led to this movement during Congress regime in 2016.
“Many of the youth were frustrated over their local Scheduled Caste counterparts bagging plum government jobs and making it to elite educational institutes on the basis of quota. Hence the movement began,” a young protester told The New Indian.
Initially, the youths started connecting through small meetings that didn’t have more than 10 participants.
Once they had “satisfactory” numbers by their side, they formed an association known as Devbhoomi Swaran and Kshatryia Samaj.
Surprised at the mammoth gathering, the Himachal Pradesh police on Friday used water cannons to disperse the protesters, who retaliated with stone-pelting at the gate of the Vidhan Sabha complex.
Within four hours, the government even notified the formation of Swaran Aayog Commission. Even the association members hadn’t expected it would be done so early, said a youth.
Violent protests in a peaceful state like Himachal Pradesh took everyone by surprise.
The activists earlier refused to talk to the Chief Secretary of the state and other senior ministers as well as BJP MLAs who tried to intervene. They remained adamant on their demand to meet Chief Minister Jairam Thakur.
“ The upper caste commission will be formed in Himachal Pradesh on the lines of one in Madhya Pradesh. A notification has been issued in this regard,” said a government official
Leaders of this Swaran Morcha had earlier reached the main entrance gates of the assembly session, breaking the police barricades amid heavy security deployment.