Updated: February 24, 2016 6:24:26 am
In the line of six shops at Chhavani Mohalla in Jhajjar where Jat protesters seeking quotas went on the rampage Sunday, only one, the Jat-owned shop, has been left untouched: Sri Om Hooda Electricals. The other five, belonging to Sainis and Nais, were allegedly set ablaze by the Jats. And at the main market, there is nothing left of the shops on either side of Haryana Book Depot. Mostly shoe shops, owned by Sainis and Punjabis, they were set on fire Saturday. The bookstore belongs to a Jat.
If property targeted was by caste, so was life. At the Jhajjar civil hospital, seven post-mortem examinations have been conducted so far. Four were killed over the weekend, including one who was axed to death before his family, said the next of kin. In the mortuary register, each name has an address — and caste.
According to hospital entries examined by The Indian Express, two were identified as Sainis, one as Kumhar, the fourth Halwai and the remaining three Jats. Other critical cases have been referred to Rohtak’s PGI hospital. Sources said the administration sought a list of the dead and the caste of each.
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The Jat quota protests have opened this glaring divide as it has now acquired violent, caste overtones with Jat protesters turning their ire on non-Jats, mostly OBCs in these parts, say police and officials.
Conceding that the Jat quota agitation has taken a violent caste turn, Jhajjar SP Sumit Kumar told The Indian Express: “It all started with Jats torching shops belonging to Punjabis and Sainis. In retaliation, the two communities, along with others, vandalised the Chhotu Ram dharamshala of the Jat community. Following this, the Jats attacked Chhavani Mohalla, burnt shops and killed people. We have never seen this kind of violence and divide among castes in Haryana. But normalcy is gradually being restored.”
In Chhavani Mohalla, where the OBCs are in majority, residents said the Jats came around 1 pm Sunday, identified shops, vehicles and homes of Sainis, Nais and other backward castes before looting and torching them. The men were carrying countrymade guns, axes, swords, iron rods, Molotov cocktails made from Old Monk rum bottles. The properties of Jats were spared.
Soon, the mob began to kill.
Shamlal Singh, a Saini employed with PWD as beldar, was allegedly dragged out of his house and hacked to death, said members of his family who watched helplessly from the terrace. His son Hemant, who cleared Class XII recently, said the family has no land. “I will have to quit studies as I am the only son. I have to find work to feed my family of four. Why kill us? Are we going to get them reservation?”
Krishan Saini, 45, was returning home from his two-acre farm that kept his family of six going. Before he could realise what was happening, a bullet pierced his chest. His son Harish, who rushed towards him, said he was also fired at but survived.
“We kept calling the police but no one came. We waited for the Army too. We later learnt that they hadn’t been informed of the killings here. It only goes to show that all this happened with the consent of some one in the government,” Krishan’s brother Mahavir Saini alleged. “Or some looked the other way.”
Om Prakash, a Kumhar who is the mohalla potter, lost his 25-year-old son Virender Friday. A car mechanic, Virender was found dead at a blockade set up by Jats on Gawalison Road, about 5 km away. His skull had been split with an axe.
“We were about to get him married. That evening, he was perhaps going to repair someone’s vehicle. He never returned. The next day, a mob came very close to our house. They were shouting ‘Jat Ekta Zindabad’. The mob vandalised our neighbour’s property. On Sunday, they began to kill,” Om Prakash said.
Jhajjar civil hospital records show that several from Chhavani Mohalla sustained injuries from sharp weapons or pellets. “I could barely save my family. As many as 50 men broke into my house and began vandalising, looting. They then set my house on fire. I hid with my children and wife on the terrace,” said Amit Saini, an advocate.
Violence in Jhajjar picked up Saturday when Jat protesters began burning shops of OBCs and Punjabis in the main market. Securitymen who arrived on the scene opened fire, killing three Jat youths. Pradeep, Sandeep and Arjun were all in their early 20s.
Their family members, who had gathered Tuesday at the PGI mortuary in Rohtak to claim the bodies, said the young men were protesting peacefully “when some commotion happened” and securitymen opened fire.
Sandeep and Arjun belonged to Akheri Madanpur while Pradeep was from Kablana. From farmer families with small land holdings, they were counting on reservation to get them government jobs.
“Arjun was studying to be a graduate. What did he want after all? Quota. For that, they killed him. Are they not supposed to first fire below the waist,” his brother Bhagat Singh, who was part of the protest, said.
Among the dead at Jhajjar market were Dinesh Pandit, 25, and Krishna Kumar, 45. Both were bystanders. While Pandit was a Halwai from Chhara Chungi in Jhajjar, Kumar was a Jat from MP Majra village. Both had come to the market to buy medicine.
Krishna Kumar’s brother Captain Rajendra Singh, who retired from the Army, said this has only hardened their resolve for quota. “The government is playing games with us. The politicians are trying to pit one caste against another. But our demands are genuine. Today, Sainis have all the land while we are struggling for jobs,” he said.
At the PGI hospital, another Jat family stares at a dark future. Dilbagh Singh, 35, was killed by securitymen during a protest on NH1 in Sonipat Monday. “His father died a few years ago and he would till land to support his mother, wife and three children. Now there is no man left in the family,” a relative said.
Meanwhile, three bodies lie unclaimed at the Jhajjar civil hospital. A nurse said no one knows who they are: “They look very poor. Nobody has come to claim the bodies. They seem to be migrant labour hands, perhaps caught in the crossfire.”
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