Rajasthan's Gujjar Leader Kirodi Singh Bainsla Passes Away

With his death, the Gujjar community has lost a powerful voice, according to observers.

Bainsla, his son, and supporters agitating at railway tracks near Malarna Dungar in Sawai Madhopur in Feb 2019

Kirori Singh Bainsla, who spearheaded several agitations in Rajasthan to demand reservation for Gujjars in government jobs, passed away on Thursday at the age of 82. He took part in wars against China in 1962 and Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, before taking up the cause of the community.

Bainsla is survived by three sons and a daughter. His funeral took place on Friday at his native village in Karauli in eastern Rajasthan. Vijay Bainsla, one of his sons, confirmed his death, "He asked us for some water at around 5.30 am on Thursday, and went back to sleep but didn’t wake up. We took him to a hospital where he was declared dead.”

Kirori Singh Bainsla was a lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army. As the head of the Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, he was the architect of the Gujjar reservation agitation. He led a massive agitation in 2007 and 2008 for the classification of Gujjars as a Scheduled Tribe. About 70 people died in the police firing and other violent incidents during the protest, which included rail and road blockades in the eastern Rajasthan districts of Bharatpur, Karauli, Dausa and Sawai Madhopur.

Following a prolonged agitation, the state government gave five per cent reservation to Gujjars and four other nomadic communities – Banjara, Gadia-Lohar, Raika and Gadariya – in public employment and education, by creating a Most Backward Class (MBC) category for them.

Bainsla and his son Vijay joined the BJP in 2019. He handed over the command of Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti to his son Vijay during the 2020 protest which was his last public agitation. 

Beginning his career as a teacher, Kirori Singh Bainsla fought in the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, in which he was taken as prisoner of war. It was during this time that his seniors in the Army gave him the Rock of Gibraltar. He was later elevated to officer rank and commissioned into the Guards regiment, in which he rose to be a lieutenant colonel.

After his superannuation from the Army, he took up the cause of reservation in jobs and education for Gujjars.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra, among other leaders, expressed their condolences over Bainsla’s demise. Chief Minister 
Ashok Gehlot also condoled Bainsla’s death, saying he had waged a prolonged struggle for getting reservations for the MBC category. “His service to the nation while in the Army and his contributions to the Gujjar community won't be forgotten,” he tweeted.

BJP leader and former CM Vasundhara Raje said Col. Bainsla had fought for society and played a significant role in taking forward the issues of social interest. “His invaluable contributions in the fields of public service and politics will always be remembered,” she tweeted.

According to political analysts, Bainsla's demise has left a void in the leadership of the Gujjar community. "They have lost a big leader. What was unique about his leadership was that he could achieve his demands without holding any official post. The Gujjar community has lost a big voice," a senior political analyst and journalist Tribhuvan told Outlook.

"After the Gujjar Reservation Andolan, one can see more representation of the community in government jobs and bureaucracy. They have become socially confident," another senior journalist Sanjay Sharma added.

The population of Gujjars in Rajasthan is around 70 lakh, which is around seven per cent of the electorate. In the 2018 polls, Congress distributed tickets to 12 Gujjar candidates, out of which seven won. Similarly, the BJP gave nine tickets to Gujjars, none of whom won.  

Currently, Congress has eight Gujjar MLAs, after one Gujjar legislator from the BSP joined the party. Out of the seven older Congress MLAs, two – Indraj Gujjar and Gajraj Khatana – are known to support Sachin Pilot. The other five – Dr Jitendra Singh, Ashok Chandna, Shakuntala Rawat, Joginder Awana (former BSP MLA) and Rajendra Vidhuri – are in the Ashok Gehlot camp.  

The Gujjars – otherwise traditional voters of the BJP – voted for the Congress in the 2018 polls believing Sachin Pilot was its CM face. But by 2020, when Sachin Pilot was unceremoniously removed as Deputy CM and party chief, there were hardly any ripples in the Gujjar community.

Gujjar leaders cite three major reasons for the community distancing itself from Congress's intra-party conflict and Pilot – the latter's lack of ground connect, his lack of support for the agitation leading to Gujjars' classification as MBC, and his being considered an outsider. 

The Congress had won most of the seats in districts of eastern Rajasthan, in areas such as Dausa, Karauli and Sawai Madhopur, which has a large population of Gujjars and Meenas. Pilot himself had contested elections from Tonk, close to his former assembly constituency of Ajmer, and had won by a huge margin of more than 54,000 votes.