At 7 am on Saturday, two young men on a motorcycle whizzed past a small market at the entrance of Chhavni Mohalla in Jhajjar. To a group of men sitting there, they threw a warning: “We’re coming back.”
A day before the beginning of the planned new phase of the Jat quota agitation, residents of the area that saw some of the most extreme violence in February are preparing for the worst.
Despite assurances from the government and the visible presence of forces on the ground, some residents have sent their children away. Some have begun to move goods from their shops to their homes. Some have been trying to collect intelligence from nearby Jat villages on what to expect from Sunday.
There are others who have vowed to fight back. In February, the agitation took on caste overtones in Chhavni Mohalla — with a mob allegedly comprising Jats killing two backward class residents and selectively vandalising and setting afire shops and homes belonging to non-Jats.
“The government has assured nothing will happen. Jat leaders have said protests will be restricted to villages. Forces are conducting flag marches. But we have seen what happens when large crowds gather,” said Amit Saini, whose house was gutted.
Businessman Mainpal Singh Chauhan is not waiting for government help. “We were caught unawares the last time. This time we are prepared. Let them come. We will fight. In fact, we want them to come. DGP sahab has already said that we can take the law in our hands in self-defence,” he said, referring to Haryana DGP K P Singh’s recent statement legitimising the murder of a “criminal” by the common man.
In the Jat community, not much enthusiasm is on display. Groups demanding reservation have taken divergent stands, but the community as a whole seems somewhat on the defensive.
Vikas Barak, a Jat and owner of Bharat Gun House in Rohtak, said, “The last stir went against the community. It earned it a bad name and diluted the moral strength behind the quota demand. So many people died, Jat men are behind bars, and yet no reservation is in sight.”
Yashpal Malik, president of the Akhil Bhartiya Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, has announced that the agitation in Jhajjar would begin from Jondi village. But the village Sarpanch, Joginder Singh, claims to have no clue about it.
“Jat leaders have been making announcements without consulting the villagers. I learnt about it from the papers. I have announced in the village that whoever wants to join this stir does so at his own risk. I have informed the police too,” said Singh.
It isn’t that the Jat anger has disappeared. “Young Jat men are angry that nothing has moved after all of this. They believe that governments can influence courts to give a favourable order on reservation. But it’s unlikely that the situation will go out of hand this time,” said Dharampal Singh, a Jat from Rohtak city.
But Rajat Gupta, a shopowner in Rohtak who managed to save his business from arsonists, says things will be clear only after a few days. “One provocative statement or incident can spark fresh problems. We will lower our guard only after 5-6 days,” Gupta said.
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