ALMOST A year later, Haryana is again witnessing Jat quota stir, but with a sharp contrast. Unruly mobs of February 2016 have been replaced by disciplined agitators. This time, not only the government authorities have taken preventive measures, but the agitating Jats are also fighting under the single leadership of Yashpal Malik, president of the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS). Last February, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had to call over 100 Jat leaders, including khap chiefs, for talks over the quota demand. Then, the youths had gone out of control as different Jat groups tried to show their strength.
Political leaders were giving inflammatory speeches on caste lines and the government was not able to control them which gave enough ammunition to antisocial elements to turn the agitation into a caste violence that left 30 dead and over 300 injured. But, this time, the government seems alert. Even those BJP leaders, who support reservation for Jats, are exercising restraint while making statements. The CM on Sunday reportedly reprimanded a BJP MP, who had criticised the government for announcing jobs to the next of kin of those killed in last year’s violence. Khattar reportedly told the MP that his statements were vitiating the peaceful atmosphere in the state, which the government would not tolerate.
It is widely believed that politicial leaders had not anticipated the extent of violence last year when they locked horns with each other on caste lines. But the large-scale violence and its negative fallout on social harmony have forced them to do a rethink. However, Malik still alleged that the government had tried to provoke people this time, too, by delaying permission to Jat agitators for staging protests. “But we have asked the community members to exercise restraint,” he said. The AIJASS chief said that during the February 2016 agitation, the Jat agitators had blocked the roads but this time they have given the call for a peaceful agitation.
However, the government says that peace prevailed across the state with the authorities putting in place strict measures to maintain law and order in view of the proposed agitation. The authorities have not only earmarked the dharna sites but have also taken an undertaking from the protesters to hold dharnas peacefully. “I expect the agitators to honour conditions on which they have been permitted to hold dharnas, keep to their earmarked place and limited to their applied-for numbers,” says Hisar IGP, OP Singh, adding any attempt to stray will attract swift lawful action. The IGP told The Indian Express that he has asked the police chiefs of six districts — Hisar, Sirsa, Fatehabad, Jind, Bhiwani and Dadri — under his jurisdiction to maintain utmost vigil. “I have ordered them to resist any attempt to disrupt public life or inflict damage to life and property with full might under their command,” he said.