Changed face of Jat quota protest: Women turn out to shield their men

In the cheering and applauding audience are hundreds of women, heads and faces veiled, sitting on dhurries placed on the uneven ground.

Written by Nirupama Subramanian | Jassia | Published:February 19, 2017 4:00 am
Jat agitation, Jat quota agitation, Haryana Jat agitation, Jat reservation, Jat Aarakshan, Jat women, Jat agitation women, indian express news CRPF personnel at Rohtak on Saturday. Express

In a pale blue salwar-kameez, her head and face covered with her dupatta, the speaker at the Jat Nyaya Dharna tells the audience about the “false promises” made by the Haryana government. “Jat ki chhaati itni chaudi hai, woh desh ki suraksha ke liye goli bhi kha sakta hai (A Jat is so brave he can take bullets to keep the country safe), he can make sacrifices for the rights of his community, he can make sacrifices for his fields, for his family…” the woman says, citing the example of Major Satish Dahiya from Narnaul, who died battling militants in Kashmir on February 14.

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Haryana’s Jat community is once again in agitation mode, renewing last year’s stir that ended after days of violence. Unlike last year, the protests have remained peaceful this time round. Unlike last year, women are the unlikely foot soldiers of this year’s agitation.

Thousands of women are being mobilised across Haryana ahead of dharnas in all districts to mark Balidan Divas or the ‘day of sacrifice’ on Sunday in protest against the deaths of 21 Jats who were among 30 killed in last year’s protests. Jassia had no casualties in last year’s protests, though a youth from these parts was injured in police firing.

“Those women who come here are the true daughters of Bharat Mata. Bring your families, your parents,” the woman speaker on the stage declares, asking women to gather in “lakhs” on February 19.

In the cheering and applauding audience are hundreds of women, heads and faces veiled, sitting on dhurries placed on the uneven ground. They are seated in the front. The men bring up the rows behind the women.

As she gets off the stage after rounding off her speech with an inspirational rhyme on Jat icon Sir Chhotu Ram, women, old and young, reach out to shake her hands, pat her head, with the blessing: “May you live long”.

With the issue of reservations for Jats before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the demands this year are not so much about quotas as they are for “justice” for the community: withdrawal of cases of murder and attempt to murder against last year’s protesters, release of 58 protesters from jail and a job for every family that lost a member during the agitation. In their speeches, the protesters have also been targeting the Khattar-led BJP government in the state, a move aimed at mobilising the community ahead of the 2019 Assembly elections.

Women say they are participating in the protests to ensure the “safety” of their menfolk. “We are peaceful people. You can see how men and women are sitting here without any issues. We are not the ones to start any violence. But if there is any violence against us, we will be here to protect our children,” says Meena Makroli, the woman speaker, tells The Sunday Express. “Women are joining the protests to make sure that what happened last year to our boys does not happen again. We are here for their safety,” she says.

The 38-year-old has an MSc in Computer Science, a B.Ed degree and is trained to be a stenographer, but, she says, “no one gave me a job”. She says she heads a “women’s committee” in her village Makroli near Rohtak. “The committee has 10 members and we have been going to each and every house in the village asking the women to come out and support the cause,” says the mother of two, not letting the veil slip off her face.

The committee is approaching not just Jat women, but those from the “chhattis biradari” or 36 castes, “because we are fighting against the way the BJP government is trying to bring about social divisions between Jats and non-Jats in Haryana”, she says, accusing the Khattar government of “plotting” to create divisions among Hindus in the state “in the same way they have created divisions between Hindus and Muslims elsewhere”.

The women start arriving after the men, by around 11.30 am, and leave by about 4.30 pm. “We finish all our chores at home and come here. If something remains undone, so be it. We’ll do it when we return home in the evening” says Rajdevi, also from Makroli. “We did not know so much the last time, but this time, we will not let our children die,” she says.

Before Meena, 30-year-old Renu from Jassia gives a fiery speech from the stage. “Arakshan. (Reservation)” she screams into the mike with the ease of practiced protester. “Lekey rahengey (We won’t stop till we get it),” the crowd responds. “What has happened to the men at the back? Your voice has to reach Khattar,” she says. This time, the men and the women raise their voice louder.

Basanti, a 79-year-old woman from Jassia, walks up to Renu after her speech, kisses her head and says she will not leave the dharna site until the demands are met. A large contingent of women from Rohtak town’s Sector-3 has also joined the protest. Unlike their village counterparts, their faces and heads are not veiled.

After the women have spoken, Yashpal Malik, leader of the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, delivers a short speech, thanking “mothers and sisters” for their support. “We will win this struggle for sure. But the only way to do this is to do it peacefully,” he says.

“This time, women are giving full support to the andolan,” says 25-year-old Renu, who has an MBA degree and is preparing for the Staff Selection Commission examination for junior posts in the Central government. “We are here to ensure that what happened the last time does not happen. If the bullets start flying, we will be there to protect our brothers,” she says. Another woman from Rohtak, Usha Kumari Singh, says, “This time if anything happens, we will take the bullets”.

Later, Malik tells The Sunday Express that no one is forcing the women to join the protests. “They want to be in the front, to protect their men,” he says. Denying the suggestion that the women were being used by the men as “human shields”, Malik says, “Jats are not cowards to use women like that. Jat men are brave, that is why they join the forces and are dying for the country. The women are here of their own free will.”

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  1. H
    Homer
    Feb 19, 2017 at 5:47 am
    First they divided Hindus and Muslims. Then they divided Dalits. Then they invented a division between Hindus and Sikhs using Rajiv hi and his party slaughtering Sikhs in 1984. Now they have patels and jats. When will Indians learn to unite as Indians and throw out all these seemingly logical leaders who find division or create issues to divide and keep India from progress? Kejriwal hardik Rahul lalu maya mullayam pressutes and Italians. All tools of those who want to keep India in chains and backward!
    Reply
    1. H
      Homer
      Feb 19, 2017 at 6:04 am
      Now if Pathidars and Jats ask of arakshan then next the Adanis and Ambanis will also have the right to demand arakshan. After all they are a minority. Very very few are as rich as them and so they are discriminated against so they too can claim arakshan!
      Reply
      1. H
        Homer
        Feb 19, 2017 at 5:59 am
        This is a first! Women protecting rapists and thugs!
        Reply
        1. B
          Binu Mathew Varghese
          Feb 19, 2017 at 6:13 am
          Why s
          Reply
          1. B
            Binu Mathew Varghese
            Feb 19, 2017 at 6:13 am
            Why so
            Reply
            1. V
              vinay dahiya
              Feb 20, 2017 at 7:23 am
              dont comment on anything without knowing the truth deeply...u mentally poor and immature guy
              Reply
              1. A
                A. M.
                Feb 19, 2017 at 7:21 am
                Sanghis are the main villain. Don't blame the leaders whom the non-sanghis support.
                Reply
                1. H
                  HR
                  Feb 19, 2017 at 4:27 am
                  Color discrimination has a different form, caste and casteism, still happening in 21st century. Its the the Gujarat model that's being talked about. It's caste system or as some people prefer to call it caste. I think it will go away through social changes with most importantly by marriage especially arrange marriage between upper caste and Dalit, tribal people, especially between upper caste bride and Dalit or tribal groom. People still think Inter-caste marriage is crossing the line, still a taboo. This is sheer hypocrisy. I personally approve and encourage inter caste marriage. Fight for it, take police protection, let media know if some hares you and tries to prevents inter caste marriage.
                  Reply
                  1. I
                    iftiindian
                    Feb 19, 2017 at 3:16 am
                    Better late than never, people have understood the gimmicks of Modi, BJP and RSS. They are black ANGREZ who believe in divide and rule. First they create animosity between Hindu and Muslim then create disharmony among Hindu based on backwards and forwards. People should cautious of Modi's divisive and anti people policy.
                    Reply
                    1. K
                      Kamlesh Pant
                      Feb 19, 2017 at 6:45 am
                      If jat community is promoting women that's good but good to see women protecting men. Jat women are more than jat men.
                      Reply
                      1. M
                        M Prabhu
                        Feb 19, 2017 at 12:13 am
                        This is simply horrible for the RSS and BJP, since CM Khattar, a Brahmin, comes from the ' stables of the RSS ' :lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The committee is approaching not just Jat women, but those from the “chhattis biradari” or 36 castes, “because we are fighting against the way the BJP government is trying to bring about social divisions between Jats and non-Jats in Haryana”, she says, accusing the Khattar government of “plotting” to create divisions among Hindus in the state “in the same way they have created divisions between Hindus and Muslims elsewhere”.
                        Reply
                        1. R
                          Ram Pathak
                          Feb 19, 2017 at 1:55 am
                          Jats are affluent cl like Patidars . Their demand for reservation is unjust and must be dealt with heavey hands if required.
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            Sheik Mohamed
                            Feb 19, 2017 at 4:10 am
                            Saffronized party Government lead by Sh.Kattar leads to this situation who moves halfheartedly in this regard, and they are playing hide and seek.
                            Reply
                            1. T
                              Tanbeer alam
                              Feb 19, 2017 at 6:14 am
                              U r home boy of stinking chaddi gang
                              Reply
                              1. Y
                                yash sehgal
                                Feb 19, 2017 at 3:32 am
                                What a shame..jats always pose themselves as machos n daredavils..lt;br/gt;Now if daredavils have to hide behind their women why then they fight..
                                Reply
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