New Delhi/Chandigarh, Feb 21 (IANS) With near anarchy gripping Haryana, the ruling BJP promised on Sunday evening that Jats will get reservation in government jobs and a bill will be placed in the next session of the state assembly.
On the eighth day of violent protests by Jats, BJP leader Anil Jain, in charge of party affairs in Haryana, made the announcement in New Delhi after some central ministers and party and Jat leaders met Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
“It has been decided that in the coming assembly session, Jat reservation will be given in Haryana. In this regard, the government will bring a bill,” the Bharatiya Janata Party leader told reporters.
The BJP late evening announced formation of a five-member committee led by Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu to look into the issue. The panel, which will give its report “at the earliest” to party president Amit Shah and the central government, is expected to look into the demands for quota in the central government jobs.
At least 10 people have been killed and 150 injured in mindless violence linked to the job quota protests by the Jat community in Haryana, Director General of Police Y.P. Singhal said in Chandigarh.
Police and political leaders blamed “anti-social elements” for much of the anarchy that saw widespread attacks on private and government property, including vehicles, causing losses totalling hundreds of crores of rupees.
Nearly half of Haryana — which borders Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and surrounds Delhi from three sides — has been severely affected by the violence. In the process, life has been hit badly in a large swathe of northern India.
Congress urged the Jat community to withdraw their agitation while accusing the BJP government in Haryana of creating “provocative conditions” in the state.
Thousands suffered as the agitation paralysed life in the entire state, blocking rail tracks and highways, cutting off a chunk of northern states from Delhi.
National Highway No.1 (NH-1) — connecting Delhi with Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir — was blocked by Jats in Sonipat and Panipat districts. Thousands of vehicles and people were stranded along the highway.
Security forces on Sunday opened fire and used tear gas in an attempt to remove Jat demonstrators from Munak canal in Sonipat district to ensure resumption of water supply to Delhi. One person was killed, forcing the security forces to retreat in order to prevent further casualties.
The Jat protests have caused an unprecedented water crisis in Delhi, where Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal closed down all schools on Monday and announced water rationing to all except a few VIPs and essential services.
Delhi, which gets almost all its water needs from Haryana, is expected to go without potable water supplied to homes on Monday.
Haryana Home Secretary P.K. Dass said the situation was “much better” on Sunday compared to Saturday. He said curfew was clamped in Kaithal town on Sunday and army and paramilitary forces were rushed to Gohana and Kalanaur towns.
Jat agitators resorted to arson and looting at various places. Major highways, especially NH-1 (Delhi-Ambala) and NH-8 (Delhi-Jaipur), remained blocked. Rail tracks were blocked at various places.
Road and rail connectivity in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir as well as Chandigarh remained paralysed.
Jat leader Bhagat Singh Dalal, who attended the meeting with Rajnath Singh, said they were assured the community will get job quotas in Haryana and of formation of a high-powered committee.
Regarding the mindless violence which has left 10 people dead and with losses to private and government property running into thousands of crores of rupees, Dalal said: “Jats never indulge in violence. The agitation has been taken over by anti-social elements. BJP MP from Kurukshetra Raj Kumar Saini also vitiated the atmosphere.”
DGP Singhal said the violence in the worst-affected Rohtak, Bhiwani and Jhajjar had been contained. “Ten people have been killed and nearly 150 injured.”
Trains and buses to and from Delhi and other places have been cancelled. All major highways passing through Haryana have been blocked at several places.
Those opting for flights faced steeply-hiked fares. Air tickets from Chandigarh to Delhi were priced between Rs.25,000 and Rs.90,000 for the one-hour journey.
Singhal denied that there was lack of coordination between the army and the state authorities.
He said 69 columns of the army had reached Haryana and were deployed, especially Rohtak and Jhajjar. He said 191 police cases had been registered and 45 arsonists rounded up.
The civil aviation ministry on Sunday asked all airlines to operate more flights to Chandigarh to fly out stranded passengers.
Hundreds of vehicles were stranded on the Chandigarh-Shimla highway but the blockade was removed later. Jats also paralyzed road traffic in Ghaziabad bordering Delhi.
Boxer Vijender Singh, cricketer Virender Sehwag and actor Randeep Hooda, all from the Jat community, appealed to the Jats to shun violence.