The one thing that the Jat agitation has made clear to us is that life, limb and property are about as insecure in 21st century India as they probably were in the 18th century when the Mughal empire began to fall apart. Sorry to say, but safety of property is something that the Indian state has absolutely failed to guarantee.
For long we thought that property gets destroyed only during communal riots. But then the destructions of 1984 (Delhi, anti-Sikh), 1990 (Kashmir, anti-Hindu), 1992-93 (Mumbai, anti-Muslim) and 2002 (Gujarat, anti-Muslim) happened. They showed that the Indian state could be complicit in violence against some of its most successful communities. Delhi was explained away by referring to emotions being swayed in the aftermath of the death of Indira Gandhi. The ethnic cleansing in Kashmir was excused for being a representation of the jealousy of have-nots against a more successful social group. The attacks on Muslims in Mumbai and Gujarat showed that violence was on its way to being normalised in India.
The only thing common in all these episodes was the persistent inaction of the state in punishing the wrong-doers and providing succour to the ones who had been harmed.
Perhaps the single most important feature of the modern state, namely its monopoly over force and its ability to offer security of property and life to its citizens, is a concept that seems to be about as foreign to those who rule India as it probably was to any emperor of the past.
Do we really believe that in a situation where their hard-earned property can be burnt up by a rampaging mob at any time, any investor would invest in India? Anyone who wishes to do business looks first for security of property. Profits come second, simply because there must be some ability to retain those profits.
We do not wish to comment on whether the Jat cause is right or wrong. That is a political issue for political parties to decide. We also do not wish to comment on the correctness of the anticipation that such a quota, if given, would win votes. Indian voters have repeatedly shown that they do not care much for such self-serving politics.
What is most definitely not political is the ability to deliver normalcy and security to citizens. Unfortunately, this is not a view that seems to be shared by the government.
At least the later Mughal emperors had the excuse of lack of men and material. After the successful suppression of the first Jat rebellion led by their leader, Gokul, in 1669, the Jats bided their time till such moment as the emperor, Aurangzeb, departed for the Deccan with his army. The force that stayed back was inadequate to suppress a full-fledged uprising and, soon enough, Jatland erupted again. A series of leaders like Brij Raj and Raja Ram raised the flag of insurrection, refusing to pay revenue to the royal coffers. They also succeeded for a time in blocking the royal highway between Delhi and Agra. Most of the time, local Mughal officials colluded with the Jats for a share of the booty and winked at the rebellion, much to the fury of Aurangzeb. The Mughals allied with the Hada Rajputs and the Shekhawats to fight back, with patchy success. The Jats retreated but only temporarily. The absence of the Mughal army in far-away Deccan was ever a hindrance.
No wonder historical India had some of the highest rates of interest and businesses seldom involved themselves in long-term contracts. Most businesses in pre-British India were confined to spot trades. If the future is relatively uncertain, it is better to mull over the transience of existence rather than enter into long-term commitments. Make whatever profit you can rather than plough it into setting up long-term institutions of trade and industry. No credit to the states of India for the wealth that floated around this rich land.
In present-day Haryana, all indications are that the government was fully briefed about the possibility of civil disturbances a few days before the protestors even began to do anything. The inspector general of police, Rohtak range, reportedly, had put this on record much before any trouble started. Yet the government chose inaction. It did transfer him out, though.
The simple point is this: The might of the state certainly does not have the ability to protect people and property. Even while having the required paraphernalia to provide protection, the state routinely refuses to.