As the ongoing Jat stir, called to press for reservation and other demands, completes its 30 days on Monday, many may wonder how the community has managed to hold dharnas, with such large gatherings, for this long.
A closer look into the dharnas over this period suggests that the organisers have made their task easier by creatively embroidering the protests with a variety of entertainment and free food for the masses. It apparently is a win-win deal for the organisers as it assures them healthy attendance, and also for the attendees as it provides them more than just a dharna.
At all the 20 dharnas spots of the Jats in Haryana, protesters start gathering at around 11 am. While the women generally start leaving by 2pm, the spots wear an abandoned look by 6 in the evening.
During the dharna, the organisers engage the protesters with Haryanvi folk Ragini at regular intervals. These are accompanied by folk dances, magic shows and of course, free traditional food.
At night, only a handful of protesters sleep inside tent houses at dharna where proper bedding is arranged for them. A television with DTH connection is also installed so that they can check how they are being reported on a daily basis, sometimes even at the prime time hours.
“Fatigue is little as we come here for few hours everyday. We can go home and sleep. We can take care of our cattle in the morning and evening, and spend the afternoon here. But there are many women who are leaving their work behind and are coming out to support the cause,” said Rabto Devi, who comes from Mokhra village.
As the community is mostly involved in agrarian activities, there couldn’t have been a better time for the protests, as most of them are free these days with still over a month at hand for the harvest season.
“Till the wheat harvesting begins in late April and early May, we can comfortably carry on with our protests. The government must accept the demands or they should know we can take it really long,” said Satyawan Malik, a farmer from Ismaila.
Last year too, the quota protest had begun in February. However, it took a violent turn and roads were blocked for several days. About 30 people also lost their lives and property worth crores was destroyed in the mayhem.
The community regathered for another round of protest in June last year after the harvest season for Rabi crop ended. The protest was called off after 20 days just ahead of the sowing season for Kharif crops.