Politics at play as Jat agitation pushes Haryana backward (News Analysis)

Chandigarh, Feb 22 (IANS) For a state promoting itself as an ideal investment destination under the ‘Happening Haryana’ banner, the violent events of the past 10 days arising out of the Jat community’s agitation for job reservations have come as a rude setback.

Politics is now being blamed for the Jat agitation spinning out of control and creating an anarchy-like situation in more than half of the state that borders Delhi from three sides.

Although no names are being taken openly as to who could have incited the mobs to indulge in the free-for-all violence, it is evident the whole scenario has unfolded into a Jat-versus-non-Jat tussle.

While the state’s first BJP government, which came to power with a clear majority in October 2014, has a non-Jat chief minister in Manohar Lal Khattar, opposition parties like the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Congress are dominated by Jat leaders.

Within the BJP too, Jat leaders have tried to dictate things.

The Jat community, politically dominant in Haryana since the state was born on November 1, 1966, forms 29 percent of its nearly 2.55 crore people. Although most Jats are land owners and better off than other communities, the community has been demanding reservation under the OBC (Other Backward Class) category.

In the past also, the Jat community has agitated for reservation, but it never got out of hand, causing loss of hundreds of crores of rupees to the government and people and leading to so much inconvenience for everyone in Haryana and beyond.

The Congress-led UPA government had notified reservation for the Jats just before the April-May 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The Supreme Court in July 2015 quashed the notification. The BJP government in Haryana has since moved the apex court to seek a review.

The present Jat agitation started on a small note in Mayyar village in Hisar district earlier in February when a section of Jats blocked a railway track. The Khattar government assured them that the reservation demand would be looked into.

Just a day after that blockade was lifted, fresh trouble brewed in Rohtak, Bhiwani and Jhajjar districts with leader-less Jats coming out on the streets in large numbers and blocking roads and railway tracks.

Within three days, the protest went out of control with mobs of youth engaging in vandalism and arson.

The rampage began in Rohtak, Bhiwani and Jhajjar districts. The frenzy soon spread to Sonipat, Panipat, Hisar, Kaithal, Jind, Kurukshetra and elsewhere. Scores of shops were looted and set on fire. Government and private buildings were damaged or torched. Numerous buses and scores of private vehicles were targeted by arsonists.

The Khattar government was found wanting in dealing with the situation initially.

The image the violent agitation has created for Haryana has made it ‘happening’ for all the wrong reasons. Investors, be it from within the country or from other countries, are unlikely to feel encouraged by the scenario.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted on jaideep.s@ians.in)

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