As the ongoing Jat stir entered its 11th day today, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar expressed hope that it will be over soon. He also mentioned that besides the committee comprising senior bureaucrats, constituted by his government to engage in talks with Jats, they (the chief minister or any other minister) too can take part in talks with the agitators.
Asked if he was hopeful that the ongoing stir would end in another 3-4 days, Khattar replied, “I am hopeful.”
He mentioned that the Haryana government yesterday formed a five-member committee, headed by Chief Secretary DS Dhesi, to consider the demands and resolve the problems of those agitating for reservation, among other issues, in the state.
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Asked why the committee only had bureaucrats and no senior minister was coming forward for talks with Jats, Khattar said, “It is not like that. Many a times, they (bureaucrats) are part of such talks. After they meet, we too will not hesitate to meet them (the protesters).”
He added that his government was in favour of resolving people’s problems “as per the provisions of the Constitution”.
Replying to a query, Khattar, without naming anyone, hit out at those who were “trying to politicise the fresh round of the Jat protest”.
“The political atmosphere right now is heated up. That is why all of this is going on. Political parties should not take part in this (the Jat stir) the way they are doing it,” he said.
The main opposition party in Haryana, the INLD, has openly come out in support of the agitating Jats and asked the government to meet their demands.
Senior INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala has thrown his weight behind the protesters and has even addressed their gatherings. During the fresh round of the agitation, the protesters have been staging dharnas at various places in the state amid elaborate security arrangements.
The call for the fresh stir was given by certain Jat outfits, especially those owing allegiance to the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti headed by Yashpal Malik.
At some places, the khap panchayats or caste councils are also backing the dharnas. Today, certain students’ groups came out in support of the stir and took out a motorcycle rally in Rohtak to show solidarity with the agitators. DGP KP Singh said the stir was going on peacefully.
“The situation is peaceful,” he told PTI here.
Malik has maintained that Jats were willing to wait for reservation since the matter was sub-judice, but they wanted all other demands to be accepted immediately.
Malik, however, has alleged that the police are hounding sarpanches (village heads) and youngsters to deter them from joining the protest and has maintained that no talk could take place in such circumstances.
Asked how Malik was being allowed to address dharnas, despite a sedition case lodged against him and some others last year for allegedly threatening peace and communal harmony in Haryana, Khattar said, “In democracy, people have the right to put across their points of view peacefully and within the ambit of law. However, if it comes to a point where we feel that peace is being threatened and the limits are being crossed, strict action will be taken as per law.”
Asked if by that time the situation would slip out of the administration’s hands, as was seen last year, the chief minister said, “Things are not the way you put it. We know that it (the stir) is going on peacefully and it will be like that (this time)”.
Khattar had earlier said the government had accepted the demand of the Jats of giving jobs to the next of kin of those who had lost their lives during the agitation last year.
In view of the fresh Jat stir, paramilitary forces have been deployed in sensitive areas, while the state police is maintaining a strict vigil.
Security has further been strengthened in many sensitive districts, officials said.
As many as 30 people were killed and property worth crores was damaged at many places in Haryana during last year’s Jat stir which had turned violent. However, this time the state has been put on maximum alert, they added.
Rohtak and some of its neighbouring districts, including Sonipat and Jhajjar, were the worst-hit by the violence last year. Jats have announced that February 19 would be observed as ‘Balidan Divas’ (Sacrifice Day) in memory of those who lost their lives during last year’s agitation.
Apart from reservation in education and government jobs, the demands of the Jats include the release of those youths from jails who were arrested during last year’s agitation, withdrawal of cases slapped during the protest and government jobs for the kin of those killed and injured while taking part the stir.
There is also a demand of action against BJP MP from Kurukshetra Raj Kumar Saini for his alleged anti-Jat rants.
Of the 2,100 cases registered during last year’s violence, about 1,350 have been withdrawn whereas, hearing was going on in the remaining ones. These issues could be resolved through dialogue for which the government’s doors were always open, Khattar had said earlier.