Haryana is on the edge as the ongoing Jat agitation seeking reservation in education and government jobs has once again raised the spectre of last year’s violence that killed 30 people.
Members of the Jat community have been sitting on dharnas in 19 of the state’s 22 districts since January 29.
The fresh protests come at a time when Haryana is observing golden jubilee of its formation.
The images of mobs setting houses, schools, eateries and other places on fire during last year’s quota agitation are still fresh in public memory.
The Delhi-Ambala National Highway, the gateway for travel to Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, had remained blocked for days.
The Manohar Lal Khattar government had drawn flak from various quarters, including the opposition, for its alleged inept handling of the situation last year.
A complete breakdown of the official machinery was witnessed between February 19 and 22 last year.
Later, a committee headed by former Uttar Pradesh DGP Parkash Singh probed the acts of omission and commission of officers during the Jat quota violence and indicted several officers for not taking appropriate steps, thus allowing the situation to worsen.
As many as 1,196 shops were set ablaze, 371 vehicles torched, 30 schools/colleges were burnt, 75 houses were set on fire, 53 hotels/marriage palaces were devastated, 23 petrol pumps were attacked and vandalised, the committee had observed in its report.
An industry body had pegged the loss at around Rs. 34,000 crore in last year’s violence.
The mode of protests this year is giving sleepless nights to the first ever BJP government in Haryana, a state carved out in 1966.
Despite the government assuring the Jats that it will do whatever possible within the ambit of the law and the agitation leader promising that the stir will be peaceful, the growing number of protesters with each passing day is proving a tightrope walk for the Khattar government, which does not want to allow a repeat of last year’s situation.
Notably, opposition parties — the Indian National Lok Dal and the Congress — have given their support, asking the Khattar government to fulfil the promises it had made to the Jat community.
Jats are demanding reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, besides withdrawing of criminals cases registered against several youths of the community during last year, release of those lodged in jail, compensation and government jobs to the next of kin of those killed in last year’s agitation.