Haryana remained tense ahead of the protesting Jats’ threat to intensify their stir seeking reservation on ‘Balidan Diwas’ (day of sacrifice) to be observed across the state on Sunday in memory of protesters killed during last year’s violence.
The protesters have planned to bring lakhs of supporters to all 20 dharna sthals (sit-in sites) in 19 districts, warning of an “earthquake” if all their demands are not met by the state government. The tremors are being felt by those living in the stir-affected areas or planning to travel through the state.
Adding to their worries are unofficial “travel advisories” put out on social media or sent through messaging services by some “concerned” people. “Over a lakh people are expected to participate... national highway will be blocked by these protesters. All are requested not to travel through Haryana on February 19,” read one such message which went viral on Saturday.
It was on this day (February 19) exactly a year ago that unprecedented violence had rocked eight districts of the state with rampaging mobs indulging in arson and loot. At least 30 people lost their lives, and public and private properties worth hundreds of crores were destroyed.
While All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) chief Yashpal Malik, spearheading the three-week-long agitation, has repeatedly said that the protests would remain peaceful, panic-stricken people in places such as Rohtak have sought security for their educational institutions and business establishments. Those planning to travel through the state in the next two-three days are also calling up friends, journalists and officials before firming up their plans.
SPOTS OF BOTHER
The state agencies are worried about four sensitive spots — Jassia in Rohtak, Jhajjar, Joli-Lath in Sonepat, and Jind — where the Jat protesters are holding dharnas and their supporters are expected to turn up in huge numbers. “These four ‘Js’ are probable trouble spots,” said sources.
- Year on: February 19 is the date exactly a year ago when violence rocked eight districts of Haryana with rampaging mobs of quota-seeking Jats indulging in arson and loot.
- 4-J threat: There are four sensitive spots — Jassia in Rohtak, Jhajjar and Joli-Lath in Sonepat, and Jind — where protesters are holding dharnas and supporters are expected to turn up in huge numbers
- Social media panic: Though police have dismissed the “travel advisories” doing the rounds on social media and have warned of action against rumour-mongers, viral messages are being sent by “concerned” people against travel through Haryana on February 19
A close watch is also being kept at followers of jailed self-styled godman Rampal, who announced their support to the agitators and thronged the dharna in Rohtak, giving anxious moments to the state police and intelligence agencies. Officials say that this alliance is not going to last long, given the long history of hostilities between Rampal’s followers and Arya Samajis, mostly comprising Jats in the area. The home ministry is also alert and closely monitoring the situation.
However, additional director general of police (ADGP), law and order, Muhammad Akil, assured the people that the situation would be normal and peaceful. “We are taking all precautions and have made tight security arrangements,” he said.
Dismissing the travel advisories as erroneous and misleading, Akil said people would be able to travel on national highways “freely, safely and smoothly”. He also said that action will be taken against those found involved in spreading rumours or misinformation on social media.
“The movement of trains is also normal. We have not issued any travel advisory for tomorrow (Sunday),” he said, making an appeal to those sitting on dharnas to maintain peace. A total of 37 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed in different districts. Another seven companies are expected from Rajasthan.
Akil, who is member of the negotiating committee set up by the state government under the chief secretary, said the second round of talks with the pro-quota groups, including the AIJASS, are likely to take place on February 20.
Meanwhile, the state government and ruling party leaders made last-minute efforts to ease up the situation by deciding to release compensation to innocent persons who suffered injuries in clashes during the protests in February last year.
Amit Arya, media adviser to the chief minister, said that any person who sustained a bullet injury will be paid Rs 1 lakh compensation. “Those who suffered a fracture not due to any bullet injury will be paid Rs 50,000. The amount of compensation will be Rs 25,000 for those who suffered any other minor injuries,” he told reporters. The compensation amount will be paid out of the CM’s Relief Fund and has been released to the deputy commissioners.