It may sound far-fetched, but the JNU row played a role in triggering the recent violence in Haryana. According to reports, the violence began with a scuffle between non-Jats and lawyers in Rohtak who were protesting against “anti-nationals of JNU” on February 18.
According to police and eyewitness accounts, the Jat agitation for reservation began peacefully from Sampla on February 14. The initial few days only saw road blockades and protests across the state.
On February 18, however, a group of about 150 men, largely belonging to the business community, began to march through town under the banner of “35 Biradari Sangharsh Samiti”. The group shouted slogans against the blockades organised by the Jats, and carried banners that said, “CM sahib mat ghabrao, 35 biradari aapke saath hai (Honourable CM do not worry, 35 castes are with you)”, “Humein majboor na karo ki humein kathor kadam uthane pade (Do not force us to take a strong step).”
The very name of the outfit points to the division between Jats and non-Jats in Haryana, which has 36 castes living in the state. The outfit, mainly comprising Punjabis, Sainis and Nais, who have businesses in Rohtak, began their march at around 2.30 pm from Bhiwani bus stand.
On the way, it found part of the road blocked by lawyers protesting on the JNU row. “The group mistook the JNU protest for pro-Jat quota blockade. There was an argument between the lawyers and the group. It soon turned into a scuffle and the outnumbered lawyers got beaten up,” said a police spokesperson.
“We kept telling them that it was not for Jat quota, but they wouldn’t listen. Lawyers from various castes were sitting in the protest. Sushil Juneja, Pankaj Kaushik and Ajay Goud, who have all suffered injuries, are actually Punjabis,” said Rajneesh Hooda, a lawyer who was part of the protest.
Bittu Sachdeva, a trader and member of the “35 Biradari”, however, claimed that the lawyers were protesting in favour of Jat quota. “We are not against Jat quota. But our businesses were suffering because of the stir, and that is why we were holding the march,” he said.
As the outnumbered lawyers beat a retreat, the traders’ group marched ahead. At Sonipat bus stand, however, the traders were accosted by a larger group of lawyers who had gathered after learning of the scuffle. The lawyers allegedly beat up some of the traders.
Meanwhile, as news spread that lawyers had been beaten up by non-Jats, a group of students who were protesting for Jat quota marched towards Chhotu Ram Chowk, where they clashed with the “35 Biradari Sangharsh Samiti” members.
“The two groups pelted stones and beat up each other. They also torched vehicles. As many as four bikes were set on fire, two belonging to each group. Police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse them,” said the police spokesperson.
This was followed by two more lathicharges at Jind bypass and near Jat College. The second one turned ugly as students reportedly assaulted two policemen. Angry over this, some policemen reportedly entered the Nekiram Boy’s Hostel at night and beat up some students.
“This incident was captured on camera and circulated over social media. The next day, Jat youth from across the region came in trucks, buses and SUVs to Rohtak. There were thousands of them. They went on a rampage. The police were outnumbered,” said a Rohtak police officer who did not want to be named. “The allegations against the police about the hostel raid will be investigated by the probe panel,” said Rohtak SP Shashank Anand.
28 dead, 200 injured
The Jat agitation has left 28 dead and 200 injured. Haryana Police has so far arrested 127 people for indulging in violence during the 10-day agitation, and registered 535 FIRs, said DGP Yash Pal Singal.
The state government Wednesday appointed Prakash Singh, a retired IPS officer, to inquire into the role of police and civil administration officials during the agitation.