Haryana's Khattar govt braces for round two of Jat agitation
- Haryana witnessed unprecedented violence and arson in February
- The Jat community was agitating to get reservation in educational institutions and govt jobs
- The ML Khattar govt in Haryana drew a lot of flak for the way it handled the agitation
- This time, it has deployed central police and paramilitary forces, and imposed Section 144 in sensitive districts
- The political blame-game - can it lead to a solution?
- The reason why BJP will continue to engage Jats at least till early next year
The Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana is bracing itself to deal with yet another round of agitation by Jats from 5 June.
Although Khattar claims to have received an assurance of a peaceful agitation, questions are being raised as to whether the government has learnt its lessons from its failure to tackle the situation.
The community had launched the agitation for reservation in educational institutions and government jobs in February this year, and the state had seen unprecedented arson and violence.
The state administration has come in for severe criticism in the report submitted by former Uttar Pradesh and Assam Director General of Police (DGP) Prakash Singh, who had been entrusted with the job to probe the acts of omission and commission by the officials.
As many as 30 people were killed and 324 were injured in the violence, while property worth thousands of crores was destroyed.
Fresh reason for agitation
The Jats are now agitated over the Punjab and Haryana High Court staying the government's decision to grant reservation to Jats and five other communities under the newly created Backward Class 'C' category.
A division bench passed the order while hearing a public interest litigation, and issued a notice to the Haryana government to file its response by 21 July.
Observers say that while reservation remains the key issue, the community leadership has a major task at hand with regards to compelling the government to withdraw cases against Jats for the February arson and violence.
Jat leaders have been alleging that the community has been targeted. Akhil Bhartiya Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (ABJASS) leader Yashpal Malik has also been targeting the state government on the issue of giving compensation to those dead in the February agitation and jobs for their kin. Interestingly, on Wednesday, the ABJASS moved the Supreme Court, appealing to let Haryana implement Jat reservation.
Malik has also been attacking the state government for not taking appropriate action against Kurukshetra MP Raj Kumar Saini for spewing venom against the Jat community. Malik was recently booked for sedition for inciting the Jat community members in a speech made at Jind.
Preparations in place
Khattar has underlined that the Jats have a democratic right to protest peacefully on issues of importance. However, the government is not taking any chances that may result in a replay of the events that shook the state in February.
The state government has reportedly approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court for vacation of the stay on the Jat quota imposed last week.
Central police forces have been deployed in sensitive districts like Jind, Kaithal, Bhiwani, Hisar, Sonepat, Jhajjar and Rohtak, which had witnessed large scale violence before. Paramilitary forces are also guarding the Munak canal to ensure that there is no disruption of water supplies to Delhi.
Sources said that Section 144 of Cr PC, which bans a gathering of five or more people and carrying sticks, axes, swords, knives or any other sharp-edged weapons has been imposed at various places in the sensitive districts.
The government has also set up a riot control room at its civil secretariat in Chandigarh, which will function round-the-clock.
While the state braces for round two of the agitation, observers say that a major failure of the Khattar regime lies in the fact that there is no effort to engage the agitators politically.
"The situation is fluid. Although everyone expects that things will remain peaceful and would not worsen to the levels seen in February, the fact remains that this is not a plain law and order issue. It is a political issue and the answer too has to be political. But this effort is nowhere to be seen," said a senior media professional who has been covering Haryana for almost two decades.
He pointed that the Khattar government lacks a credible Jat face that can engage the community leaders.
What has been going on at the political level is a blame game. Finance minister Captain Abhimanyu has taken yet another potshot at former Congress Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, saying the recent violence was not caste-based or related to the issue of reservation, but the leaders of the Congress had used the youth to spread unprecedented political and criminal violence in a well-planned manner. He attacked Hooda for being close to Sudeep Kalkal, who was booked for inciting violence.
Even the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) continues to attack Hooda. Party leader Digvijay Singh Chautala launched a fresh attack on him, saying that Hooda was never serious on the issue of Jat reservation. He pointed out that had Hooda been serious, there would have been no agitation or violence.
Hooda, on his part, has been demanding a probe by a sitting Supreme Court judge in the entire episode.
The UP connection
Political commentator Balwant Takshak is of the view that the government is playing it safe this time.
"That the High Court went straight for a stay on reservations without issuing notices etc. comes as a surprise, but I think the government will try to get the stay vacated soon. One thing is clear - that the matter will be up for a long legal battle, as even giving it a protective cover through inclusion in the ninth schedule is not an easy task," he said.
While pointing at the lack of effort on the political engagement aspect, he also underlined: "There is no point in engaging the Opposition on the issue. This was experienced last time, when the all party meetings proved to be a total failure."
Takshak also said that the government is expected to keep offering an olive branch to the Jat community, at least till the Uttar Pradesh elections are held.
"The BJP needs the Jat votes in western Uttar Pradesh to enhance its poll prospects in the state. It will try to accommodate the Jats at least till then," he said.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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