Reservation is not the immediate priority of the Jat agitators in Haryana just now, so much as the withdrawal of over 2,100 criminal cases lodged in connection with the February 2016 agitation for reservation that has led to renewed protests. Jat leaders in the state realise that the issue of reservation in government jobs is currently being heard by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and that the state government has a limited role into it.
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However, they feel that they can mobilise community members on the issue of criminal cases as, directly or indirectly, thousands of families are connected to the accused. That’s why the community leaders have raised the demand of “aam maffi” citing the example of many other states including Jammu & Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh and Mizoram “which have offered relief to the accused of agitation-related violence”.
“Not only Jats but even non-Jats were booked in connection with the February 2016 violence. We demand the withdrawal of cases lodged against all, across caste lines, to close this chapter,” says Yashpal Malik, president of the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) which has given the call for the fresh agitation.
“The BJP government in Haryana has not fought the legal battle over the Jat reservation issue in courts seriously like they did for panchayat polls in 2015,” alleged Malik.
Whatever be the reasons for the agitation, its timing may create problems for the BJP in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab as the AIJASS has asked the community to oppose the saffron party in the assembly polls in both states. The Jat leaders claim that Jats make up 6 per cent of UP’s 20 crore population. “But Jats reside predominantly in 25 districts. If Jats don’t vote for the BJP, then its Hindu card will certainly collapse,” added Malik.
The announcement of a new phase in the agitation, forced the BJP to move quickly to contain any possible adverse fallout of the stir on its prospects in western UP with Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar speaking to a section of Jat leaders. Without wasting time, the Khattar-led Haryana government also announced government jobs to the next kin of the 30 individuals who had died during the February 2016 violence. This is an important demand of the agitators as the previous Bhupinder Singh Hooda Congress government had provided jobs in such cases.
Not only this, the BJP government agreed to legally examine the demand of “aam maffi”, making it clear, however, that the guilty will not be spared.
One of the eight demands of the Jat agitators is reining in BJP MP from Kurukshetra, Raj Kumar Saini, who has been allegedly spearheading a campaign against the Jat community in Haryana. The Jat leaders have blamed the BJP for not “checking” Saini – they allege that he has passed controversial remarks against the community. Saini has denied the allegations.
BJP’s immediate challenge may be UP and Punjab but the saffron party doesn’t want to lose the Jat vote bank in Haryana either with Hooda and the Indian National Lok Dal making all efforts to woo the community.