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Colonel Kirori Singh Bainsla joined the Army as a sepoy. He now commands the undisputed loyalty of the Gurjars and may deploy it in the next polls, reports Shivam Vij

Samiti sources are certain that in the next elections, the Samiti is going to field independent candidates in every constituency
Perched on a plastic chair atop a tractor during the day, sleeping on a cot in an open, barren field during the night, Colonel Kirori Singh Bainsla brought much of Rajasthan and parts of Delhi and Haryana to a standstill for almost a week. Somebody would take his mobile phone to a nearby village to charge the battery every night. His phone was his only weapon. Beside him sat his aides. One handled the media, one lawyer was a legal advisor, one was in charge of quelling rumours. And one coordinated those who had blocked National Highway 8 with felled trees, stones, corrugated iron sheets, large pipe covers and just about anything. Members of the Gurjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti call up from Lalsot, 80 km away, about 10 hours after five Gurjars have been killed in an attack by Meenas. “What do we do?” asks the voice. “Get the post-mortem done and cremate the bodies,” replies Col Bainsla.

It may have been Bainsla’s Army background that enabled him to organise the protest with such precision. Bainsla began his career as a teacher in a government school but, like many Gurjars, joined the army at the lowest rank of sepoy. He fought in the 62 and 65 wars, and was taken a prisoner of war in the latter. His seniors in the Army named him the Rock of Gibraltar, and he soon rose to the rank of Colonel. But in the fields of Patoli, from May 29 May to June 3, Bainsla was hardly like an Army colonel. “Look at the people around here,” he told Tehelka on June 1. “Can you count these numbers? They are at least two lakh.” After a pause, he continued, “Imagine the amount of bloodshed so many people can cause. But I have told them to be non-violent. We are completely peaceful.”

The sea of humanity around him was indeed peaceful, sitting day and night under the open skies. Bainsla almost pretended that the burning of buses, the jamming of roads had nothing to do with him. And neither did he understand the intricacies of politics. “I am a social worker,” he said, like a true politician. Nobody in the Gurjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti was willing to confirm rumours that Bainsla had once lost a zila parishad election or that his wife had been a sarpanch. But Samiti sources are certain that in the next Vidhan Sabha elections, 14 months away, the Samiti is going to field independent candidates in every constituency, not caring for the bjp or the Congress. “It pains me to see how Gurjars are being taken for a ride,” said Bainsla. “Just look at their faces, have they done any wrong?”

Bainsla has a daughter who works with the Income Tax department in Goa, two sons in the Army and one son in a private mobile firm. But despite his children being well-settled in cities, he says he lives in Hindoli, a tehsil in Bundi district, because he is a man of the countryside. The rural folk listen to every word he says. And he speaks like a true leader, arousing anger and hope in equal measure. He also speaks English fluently, and loves the media.

“Only a bullet or a letter can remove me from here,” Bainsla kept saying. Twenty Gurjars had died till then and Bainsla said he wanted to be the 21st. Otherwise, the agitation would continue until the state government sent the Centre a letter recommending Scheduled Tribe status for Gurjars, for only that would be the appropriate tribute to the “martyrs”. At the same time, Bainsla did sound willing to make compromises if Chief Minister Raje was willing to negotiate. And compromise he did: he agreed to go to Jaipur and speak directly to Raje, and said yes to a three-member independent panel rather than press for an imminent recommendation. But at the time of writing this, Bainsla was underground, his men consulting lawyers, as the state government, under pressure from the Supreme Court, reneged on its promise not to take legal action. He has been charged with the murder of a (Meena) police constable, Dungra Ram, on May 29.

Jun 16 , 2007
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