CHANDIGARH: The Jat quota agitation in Haryana took an ugly turn on Friday after one person was killed and nine others injured near the Maharshi Dayanand University campus in Rohtak. Curfew was imposed in Rohtak and Bhiwani districts following the large-scale violence by the protesters and Army and paramilitary forces had to be called in to ensure law and order as protesters vandalised Haryana finance minister Capt Abhimanyu’s house and attempted to set it on fire. Top Union Ministers — Rajnath Singh, Manohar Parrikar, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj — later reviewed the law and order situation in the State.
Police opened fire at the protesters to bring the situation under control, killing one person and injuring at least nine. The injured were undergoing treatment. The police had first fired in the air to disperse the mob.
Jat leaders had refused to withdraw their agitation till legislation was passed providing quota to the community under the Other Backward Classes category, even as authorities in the worst-affected district suspended Internet and text-messaging services due to the stir which had disrupted rail and road traffic.
The agitation, which entered the sixth day on Friday, crippled road and rail traffic across the State and educational institutions remained shut in several places. In Jhajjar district, a police post was set ablaze at Dighal. In Jind district, protesters, including women, took control of two railway stations on the Delhi-Ferozepur route. Several vehicles were also set on fire.
A counter-protest was carried out by members of around 35 communities, including the Balmikis, who are opposed to reservation for the Jats. Rohtak city is divided into two parts — while Jats control areas from Delhi Road to Subhash Chowk, the others control the area between Chhotu Ram Chowk and Hisar Road.
Haryana DGP, Yashpal Singhal, said, “The government has called in the Army apart from the existing 10 companies of paramilitary forces and also sought 20 additional companies of paramilitary forces. The 10 companies will be reaching tonight and the other 20 will reach by Saturday morning. The Army will be deployed in seven districts -- Rohtak, Jhajjar, Panipat, Sonipat, Bhiwani, Jind and Kaithal -- where the situation has worsened. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has spoken to the Union Defence Minister and sought the Army’s help to tackle the situation,” he said.
“The CM is in constant touch with the Home Minister and has been updating him on the issue. I have also talked to the Union Secretary (Home) and briefed him on the latest situation,” he added. On the firing in Rohtak, he said that unidentified men opened fire on the BSF first from a country-made weapon, following which the BSF had to act in self defence. He also said that security has been beefed up outside the residence of all MLAs and other political leaders.
After an all-party meeting that was called to discuss the issue, Khattar said, “I appeal to everyone to maintain peace and harmony in the State and open roads which have been blocked due to the agitation. A panel has been constituted to study the demands by the Jat community and it is expected to submit its report on March 31.”
Khattar said State government would bring in a Bill in the Budget session to provide reservation for Jats under Special Backward Classes category if there was consensus among the stakeholders.
The meeting was attended by former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Congress leaders Ashok Tanwar and Kiran Choudhry and Ashok Arora of the INLD. However, Leader of the Opposition, Abhay Chautala, who has been demanding a special session of the Haryana Assembly on the issue, did not attend the meeting.
Due to the blockades, Haryana Roadways has suspended bus services on many affected routes. The situation had turned riot-like after clashes erupted between members of the Jat and non-Jat communities in Rohtak on Thursday evening.