SONIPAT: Until a few years ago, the khap panchayats (kangaroo courts) in Haryana often made it to the news for wrong reasons ranging from blaming noodles for rapes to honour killing. “Khap ka zamana to aab gaya…Unki kahin na chale hai, koi na sune hai (the era of Khaps are over, nobody listens to them),” said Rajpal Dahiya, 63, of Sisana village.
Sisana at Sonipat is a bastion of Dahiya Jats – the most prominent ‘gotra’ among the community. Dahiya Jats are predominantly into farming and cattle rearing. Over 10 men, aged between 24 and 78, sit at a chaupal (community gathering) discussing elections and smoking hookah. “Jats are losing influence and significance. Both the state and the central governments fooled us. They didn’t provide us reservation in Central jobs despite protests and repeated requests,” said Azad Dahiya, 55.
In 2016, the Haryana Assembly passed a Bill, to provide 10 per cent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to Jats and five other castes. But, the Bill ran into the National Commission for Backward Classes, which asserted that the Jats do not qualify for the OBC quota.
“We are tired of protesting... We hold dharnas and rallies, the leader assures our demand will be considered and the chapter closes again. However, if my community calls me to take part in a rally, I will go even now,” Azad said.
Sonipat will see three Jats in the fray — Congress’ Bhupendra Singh Hooda, Digvijay Singh Chautala of Jananayak Janata Party and INLD’s Surendra Chhikra. BJP MP Ramesh Chander Kaushik is the sole non-Jat candidate.
In Bhainswal, another Jat village dominated by the Maliks, locals said apart from quashing their hopes of reservation, the government made false promises of agricultural schemes. “Some months ago, officers forced us to sign on some farmer insurance scheme papers. They also took money ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 20,000 depending on our size of plots. They didn’t even explain which scheme it was,” noted Kasi Ram Malik, a Bhainswal resident.
While the Jats prefer someone from their own to represent the constituency, the non-Jat villages are dead against it. “Be it Hoodas or Chautalas, they all have been into politics for ages. Almost all the members from these two families are contesting. How long will we tolerate this?” asked Rajveer Thakur from Bazidpur Saboli.
Non-Jats allege that the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government was selective in doling out support and ushering in infrastructural developments. “Hooda is seeking votes on the basis of his earlier works as CM, but he only developed Rohtak. Sonipat changed partially since Hooda focused his work only on those villages which housed more Jats. It is only in the last five years that the non-Jat villages saw some improvement,” asserted Kirsan Singh, of Seoli village.