When Jats were burning down Haryana for reservation.
When politicians were calling students of JNU 'anti-national'.
When armchair patriots were fighting for Kashmir in TV studios and social media.
When nationalists were photo-shopping pictures of Indian soldiers fighting with the Tiranga in hand, crying and rejoicing over the decision to hoist them in varsities.
While all this was going on, Captain Pawan Kumar, a true soldier and patriot, was laying down his life on a battleground, fighting the real enemies of India in order to keep the Tricolour flying in Kashmir. He was a Jat from Haryana. He had studied at JNU.
Kumar died during an army operation against militants hiding in a government building in Pampore, around 20 kilometres south of Srinagar. According to Lieutenant-General Satish Dua, the General Officer Commanding of the Army's Srinagar-based 15 Corps, "Captain Pawan Kumar of 10 Paras attained martyrdom leading his men from the front in a tricky deliberate operation at EDI government building with the possibility of some more civilians trapped not ruled out. Safety of civilians paramount who made the supreme sacrifice while fighting valiantly with militants in the encounter."
His last philosophical words: Kisiko reservation chahiye toh kisiko azadi bhai. Humein kuchh nahin chahiye bhai. Bas apni razai (Some want reservation, some independence, I don't want anything, brother, I want only my quilt).
Could there be a more ironic parable of our times?
Kisiko reservation chahiye
That a BJP chief minister with an RSS background is promising caste-based reservation, an idea the Parivar finds antithetical to its long-term project of homogenising Hindus, is yet another irony of our times. But Mohan Lal Khattar Sangh was left with no other card to play.
When the BJP swept the Haryana Assembly polls, the Jats were hoping that one of their community leaders would get the CM's chair. But, the BJP pulled Khattar — a Punjabi Khatri, first-term MLA and an RSS pracharak — from its hat. Its choice was dictated by two considerations: One, of rewarding a foot soldier of the Sangh. Two, consolidating the non-Jat vote that had powered its victory in Haryana.
Jats, who are almost 27 percent of Haryana's electorate, have struck back by making it impossible for Khattar to ignore them.
In December 2012, the Bhupendra Singh Hooda-led Congress government granted 10 percent reservation to Jats. This was based on the report of Backward Classes Commission set up by Hooda. On the basis of the recommendations of the committee, Jats and four other castes, Jat Sikhs, Ror, Tyagi and Bishnoi, were included under Specially Backward Classes. But this was set aside by the High Court since the SC had discarded the report of the commission. A review petition filed by the Khattar government is pending before the Supreme Court.
With the Jats becoming violent, Khattar has been forced to promise a Bill in the Assembly guaranteeing reservation to Jats. The Bill may not stand the scrutiny of courts — Jats do not fulfil the criteria for reservation benefits — but if the community accepts it and calls off the agitation, Khattar may get some breathing space.
Watching the BJP capitulate in front of the Jats may open a Pandora's box. Jats of western UP and some other north Indian states are also in the quota queue. If Haryana's Jats succeed, they may inspire others to put the gun to the BJP's head in other states.
Also waiting for a share in reservation pie are the Patidars of Gujarat. The BJP government has so far rejected their demand claiming they are not eligible for it. But, if the BJP extends reservation benefits to Jats, whose demand is as valid, or invalid, as that of Patidars, the reservation stir in Gujarat may get a second wind.
A long battle awaits. But, will politicians and Jats call a ceasefire so that a martyr can complete his last journey?
Captain Pawan Kumar's cremation is to be held in his ancestral village in Jind district on Monday. Since Jats have blocked the major highways and roads, his body will be flown in by a special aircraft.
"I had just one son and gave him to the country. No father can be prouder," said Pawan's father Rajbir Singh, a school headmaster based in Jind.
When he returns home for the last time, it will be a disgrace if the Jats continue to block the roads and deny a martyr the farewell he deserves.