Five protesters were killed in firing by security forces in Haryana on Saturday, taking the toll from the Jat quota agitation to six since Friday, the state police said on Saturday evening. There remained some confusion about the actual number of dead and injured, however — and it appeared that actual casualties could be up to 10.
The deaths on Saturday occurred “when armed forces opened fire to quell arson and firing” by the protesters, an official release said. Four people died in Jhajjar and one in Kaithal. Fifteen people, including security personnel, were injured, the release said.
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Two more cities were put under curfew and the Army deployed over more areas. Chief Minister M L Khattar tweeted an appeal for harmony and law and order, and subsequently asked protesters to “return to their homes as the Government has accepted their demands”, but did not elaborate.
Shoot-at-sight orders in Rohtak, Bhiwani, Sonipat, Panipat, Jhajjar, Jind and Hisar failed to curb the protests as agitated mobs went on the rampage for the second straight day. Several buses were set on fire in Rohtak, Jind, Panipat, Sonipat and Kaithal. Scores of shops, restaurants and hotels were set on fire in Rohtak and Jhajjar.
After Rohtak and Bhiwani on Friday, curfew was imposed on Saturday in Sonipat and Jhajjar. Thirteen columns of the Army were deployed in eight districts, and 30 companies of paramilitary forces were called out in 10 districts.
The Army, police and paramilitary forces conducted flag marches in eight districts, and warned protesters to go back home or face serious consequences. In Rohtak, the Army column stayed away from Gate No. 2 of Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU), as hundreds of armed Jat youths laid siege to the area, and ignored warnings to leave.
A senior official of the State Bank of Patiala told The Sunday Express that a mob was trying to lynch the security guard at a branch of the bank in Jhajjar. “One of our security guards opened fire on the mob that was attacking the branch,” Hari Das, chief general manager of the bank, said. “Apparently the bullet hit one of the protesters, who subsequently died. The mob set fire to the branch, and the guard is trapped inside. The mob is trying to catch hold of him and kill him. He has run out of ammunition. We have spoken with senior police officers, who say Jhajjar is now under the Army’s control.”
Eight railway stations were set on fire on Saturday, and tracks uprooted, including on the New Delhi-Chandigarh stretch. A total 810 trains travelling to and through Haryana were affected, and 527 were cancelled. Many others were diverted or terminated short of their destinations, the Railways said.
Dozens of buses and government and private properties were set on fire. Traffic on the Delhi-Chandigarh stretch of NH 1 was blocked at several places, and the toll plaza at Panipat was torched. As train and road traffic remained paralysed, airfares to and from Chandigarh zoomed, rising, in some cases, to over Rs 30,000 for a flight to Delhi.
The national capital also stared at a potential water crisis if the situation in Haryana was not brought under control rapidly. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Water Minister Kapil Mishra took up the matter with union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday evening.
Maruti Suzuki suspended operations at its plants in Gurgaon and Manesar on account of component supplies being hit due to the agitation, a spokesperson for the country’s biggest automaker said.
The Central Board of Secondary Education cancelled the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) in Haryana scheduled for Sunday due to “administrative difficulties”. CTET was scheduled to be held across 80 cities, six of which were in Haryana. Nearly 71,000 candidates were expected to take the test in Ambala, Faridabad, Gurgaon, Karnal, Kurukshetra and Panchkula.
For the second day in a row, mobs targeted Finance Minister Capt Abhimanyu’s palatial residence in Rohtak. A number of vehicles, including Abhimanyu’s Mercedes, parked inside the house, were set on fire. The protesters also stoned minister Om Prakash Dhankar’s house in Jhajjar; no one was, however, injured.
The state police have so far failed to identify, or even assess, the quantity of arms and ammunition looted from an arms shop in Rohtak on Friday night. “An arms shop was looted but its quantity cannot be estimated,” said Yash Pal Singal, Director General of Police.
Despite Singal’s claim that the situation was slowly coming under control, reports of violence continued to pour in all day from at least eight districts — Rohtak, Bhiwani, Jhajjar, Jind, Kaithal, Sonipat, Panipat and Hisar. The clampdown on the Internet and social networking sites continued for the second day in the affected districts. Chief Minister Khattar on Saturday asked all 47 BJP MLAs to go to their constituencies and make efforts to maintain peace and harmony.
In the morning, Khattar posted on Twitter: “I appeal to all my fellow Haryanvis to maintain law & order in the State, and ensure that harmony is maintained in society.”
(With ENS, New Delhi)