'Peaceful so far': Haryana tense as Jat quota protests return
Three months after their violent agitation left 30 dead, Jat leaders on Sunday renewed their quota stir in Haryana which was restricted to small meetings in 15 districts
Three months after their violent agitation left 30 dead, Jat leaders on Sunday renewed their quota stir in Haryana which was restricted to small meetings in 15 districts amid tight security by the BJP government which had drawn flak over its handling of the protest last time.
"It has been peaceful so far," Haryana's Additional Director General Police (Law and Order) Muhammad Akil said as nearly 20,000 security personnel from central and state forces kept a a close vigil across the state, including on national highways and railway tracks which the protesters had blocked for several days in February.
Jat leaders in Jassia village of Rohtak district, the epicentre of violence during the stir, held a 'havan' as they started the second round of the agitation on a tepid note with influential khap panchayats and some Jat factions distancing themselves from the protests.
All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS), which gave the call for the protest, pitched a tent along the Rohtak-Panipat highway just outside Jassia and also held dharnas in 15 of the state's 21 districts.
Keeping February's violent agitation in mind, the Delhi police will soon impose Section 144 (restriction on freedom of assembly) in parts of the city, NDTV reported. The restrictions will be put in place in south-west, north-west and south-east Delhi.
The Jat protesters are demanding quota under OBC category, withdrawal of cases registered against community members during the previous stir, a status of 'martyrs' for those killed and jobs for their next of kin, besides compensation for the injured.
The agitation this time was restricted to so called 'Jat belt' comprising districts like Jhajjar, Sonipat, Rohtak, Panipat, Hisar, Fatehabad and Jind.
"There are small groups of protesters mainly in the rural areas. At some places, the protesters handed over memorandums to district authorities," an official said.
Prohibitory orders were clamped at sensitive places in these districts and security forces conducted flag marches as the administration geared up to ensure that there is no repeat of earlier incidents when 30 people were killed, property worth hundreds of crores of rupees destroyed and key routes blocked by agitators.
In Rohtak, authorities said that the protest by Jat groups was illegal, as restrictions on people assembling had been imposed, as per a report by The Hindu.
A special round-the-clock control room was set up in Chandigarh to monitor the situation. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, senior officials including the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary, the state DGP, were keeping a close watch on the situation, officials said.
AIJASS Hisar president Rambhagat Malik said, "We are committed to holding dharnas in a peaceful manner."
After the Jat agitation, which paralysed normal life in Haryana and affected Delhi and other neighbouring states too, the state government recently brought in laws to provide reservation for Jats and five other communities under a newly carved Backward Classes (C) category. However, the High Court stayed it, acting on a public interest litigation, after which some Jat groups announced the fresh stir.
In Hisar, members of the Jat community started an indefinite dharna at a stadium in village Mayyar away from railway tracks and national highway, police said. Addressing the protesters, Jat leaders accused the Haryana government of not being serious towards their demand for reservation.
The Jat leaders said in case the government did not respond to their demands in a positive manner, they would be left with no other option but to take to the streets.
"The dharnas have been peaceful. People have the right to put forth their views in a democratic set up but it should be within the ambit of law," state Agricultural Minister OP Dhankar said.
"We had fulfilled their demand, but it was challenged in court. The state government is doing the needful," he said.
In the wake of severe criticism for failing to check violence, the Khattar Government had set up the Prakash Singh Committee whose inquiry report had indicted 90 officials for "deliberate negligence" during the stir.
The panel, in its 451-page report, had said that "administrative paralysis" had gripped the state and the "highest functionaries in the government failed to show the kind of guidance, direction and control that is expected in a crisis of such proportions".
Ram Bhagat Malik, spokesman of All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (Yashpal faction) which held protests in Hisar, said the dharna would be peaceful this time so that normal life remains unaffected.
Hisar Deputy Commissioner Nikhil Gajraj deployed 17 duty magistrates to maintain law and order in their respective areas.
"Fifty-five companies of paramilitary personnel drawn from CRPF, ITBP and BSF have been deployed in sensitive districts in the state," Haryana's Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said. One company comprises nearly 100 personnel.
With inputs from PTI
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