#JatQuotaStir: Rohtak protestor's killing adds fuel to the fire
At least three people were killed and 10 injured when the BSF fired at a crowd of Jats protesting for OBC reservation in Haryana on Friday. One agitator was shot dead in Rohtak, another on the Delhi-Rohtak highway, while the third was killed at the Circuit House.
The state has now imposed curfew in eight districts and called in the army to restore peace, according to the police chief Yash Pal Singhal.
The districts are Rohtak, Sonepat, Hisar, Jhajjar, Panipat, Jind, Bhiwani and Kaithal, and comprise Haryana's Jat heartland. They have been roiled for the past several days by the intensifying Jat agitation.
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Sources in the police said shoot at sight orders have also been issued in Rohtak and Bhiwani. The state has also shut down mobile internet and messaging services in the region.
Violence started after the protestors went on a rampage, blocking traffic, burning vehicles and attacking the house of Finance Minister Abhimanyu Sindhu.
According to the sources, some protesters set a police jeep on fire and damaged two others. They also attacked the house of Abhimanyu, who happens to be a Jat, and torched the Rohtak residence of the Inspector General of Police and the Circuit House. Several of Abhimayu's family members, including women and children, were in the house when it was attacked, but they escaped just in time.
Jat protestors' target - cops, Abhimanyu Sindhu's house, IGP's residence, Rohtak Circuit House
The mob then reportedly attacked a contingent of the BSF, who had been called in to take out a flag march, near the Maharishi Dayanand University with stones and sticks. The attack left two BSF men critically injured. DGP Singhal claimed that they were also fired upon by someone in the mob. And it was then they fired at the crowd.
Another group of Jats took out a protest march on the Delhi highway and damaged three state buses. They were met with a counter-protest by members of other communities like the Balmikis who are opposed to their demand for OBC reservation. The counter-marchers, too, damaged a truck which had carried the Jat protestors to the area.
In Rohtak, violence had started Thursday evening when the Jat protesters clashed with a group of people opposing their demand for quotas as well as the police.
The police and the central paramilitary forces - requested to the region by the state two days ago - had to lathicharge and teargas the mob to disperse it.
In a tight corner
In an attempt to pacify the agitators, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced, after an all party meeting Friday morning, that his government would bring a bill to grant quotas to the Jats and four other communities in the assembly's forthcoming budget session.
His government has already filed a special leave petition in the Punjab & Haryana High Court against its stay on the state's decision to provide 10% quota to the Jats and four other communities under the Special Backward Class, or SBC, category.
"The bill would be framed after consultation with Jat leaders and all political parties," Khattar told reporters.
At Friday's meeting, sources said, "all parties approved of" the steps being taken by the state government to resolve the crisis. They also agreed not to "indulge in politicking" on this issue.
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"I appeal to everyone to maintain peace and harmony in Haryana, and also open roads that have been blocked due to agitation," the chief minister said.
The appeal came after the high court asked Khattar's government to file by Tuesday a status report on the law and order situation in the state. The court was responding to a PIL, filed by a resident of Bhiwani, seeking a direction to the state to clear roads and railway tracks of protesters and "book all the people involved in violence on Thursday evening".
The central government is keeping a close watch on the agitation. The sources said it's wary of the stir "taking the shape of a caste conflict" and spreading to other states, in particular the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Punjab, all of which have sizeable Jat populations.
With inputs from Suhas Munshi