As it happened in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, it may take yet another court order to bring to an end the fortnight long siege of railway tracks in Haryana by Jats seeking reservation in the other backward classes (OBC).
After causing widespread arson and violence on the reservation issue in September in 2010, the Jats led by Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti are back to their agitating ways.
In fact, they have intensified their agitation in Haryana despite getting assurances from union home minister P Chidambaram and social welfare minister, Mukul Wasnik last week, as Jat leader Yashpal Malik puts it, that there demands will be favourably considered. On Monday, they threatened to block the Delhi- Ambala railway track if their demands were not met by March 25.
Unfortunately, the stance of the state government in tackling the fortnight long siege by Jats has been rather lenient. In fact, the way the Jats have held the state to ransom, it has brought flak for the government from various quarters. The state government is suffering heavy financial losses also with the Thermal Power Plant at Khedar in Hisar being forced to shut down due to non-availability of coal (hampered due to blockade of rail tracks) and state having no option but to buy costly power from the power exchange.
However, this is soft attitude is understandable as the present rulers are wary of annoying Jats, who have about 22% share in the vote bank and are the single largest caste in the state. However, this approach has certainly not gone down well with people from other walks of life. The way the situation is shaping, it has in fact given food for thought to other castes desiring a share in the reservation pie. Last week, the Rors, a minority caste in the state submitted a memorandum to chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda seeking OBC status in state and central services. "It is going to open a Pandora's box," commented a Haryana watcher.
The ruling Congress led by chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda has been unequivocal in advocating reservation for Jats in the Central jobs but there was no justification in giving reservation to Jats in the state. "I wrote to the Prime Minister for a favorable action on the matter. We strongly advocate reservation to Jats in OBC at the Centre. But there is no justification to give reservation to Jats in the state," chief minister Hooda had told the Vidhan Sabha last week.
The Opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) on the other hand has also supported the demand saying that Jats being socially and economically backward should get reservation both in the state as well as at the Centre. "There cannot be two yardsticks. If Jats have been given reservation in Rajasthan, why they can't get the same status in Haryana. They are as socially and economically backward in Haryana as they are in Rajasthan," said INLD chief and former chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala.
Jat leader, Yashpal Malik when asked how long they will continue with their agitation said: "We need a time schedule from Central government. It took us 21 years to make the government accept that our demands were justified. We are very clear that Jats need reservation in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra as well as at the Centre."
When asked whether it was reasonable to continue holding the state to ransom when the Centre has showed positive intent in this regard, Malik said that the experience has shown that Central government had always become apathetic whenever they have relented. "As far as national loss and inconvenience to public is concerned, I just want to ask one thing. Are we not a part of this nation? But we have not been heard for the so many years. Unless we get a cut-off date from the Centre we will not withdraw our agitation," he said.
Bhiwani based voluntary organization, Bhiwani Sudhar and Vikas Samiti has written to the President and the Prime Minister expressing concern at the ongoing Jat agitation. In a memorandum, the Samiti has said that unlawful agitators continue to control the railway tracks in the name of demand for reservation.
"This type of goondaism has brought shame for the country. It has also put a challenge before the government to keep the dignity of our constitutional values and faith of public. Because of continuous blockade of aril tracks by these elements in Haryana, the general public is having a tough time. Daily passengers (small traders, service class, hawkers etc) whose livelihood is dependent on the trains journeys are facing tough time.Due to cancellation of trains, goods were not able to reach their destination in time causing big revenue loss to the nation."
(1) "It is ridiculous that the government or any leader have the courage to speak against the illegal activity of agitators. The demands of the agitators may be correct or not but the method is truly unlawful, unconstitutional and epitomizes mobocracy and goondaism. The state has failed to act against these illegal agitations due to vested interest of politicians", Capt Aanchal Kumar, president, Bhiwani Sudhar Samiti.
(2) "It is a false impression that we are soft towards Jats. We are generally more tolerant towards agitations. We don't want to kill people. We successfully negotiated when protesting Jats had laid siege at Jind. We will do likewise now also," a Congress leader who did not want to be quoted.