Wearing an adidas pullover, Woodland shoes and a Titan wrist watch, 27-year-old Dilbag Duhan can easily pass off as an executive of a corporate firm.
Before one wonder what he is doing in middle of elderly men puffing noxious hookah at their every whim, Duhan stands up to shout slogans in a typical Haryanvi accent.
“Jat Arakshan,” he shouts to cries of “lekar rahenge” in response. “Jat ekta zindabad,” he continues at top of his voice, charging up the mood within minutes.
“All of these are not original brands. I like branded stuff, but can’t afford them,” he clarifies about his clothes.
Though a post-graduate in history from Maharishi Dayanand University (MDU), Rohtak, Duhan drives a school bus at a local primary school, 20 km from his native Jassia village here, for a living.
He aspired to be a professor and has been trying without any luck.
“Look at the irony. I always wanted a job at a school or college. I did get one, but as a bus driver at ₹6,000 salary per month,” he says.
His hopes rest on reservation being demanded by the community in jobs and educational institutions.
When the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) started another round of protests to press for job quota, Duhan and many other youths — unemployed or those seeking government jobs — started thronging the dharnas (sit-ins) in large numbers, saying that the community has got left behind other castes.
“Reservation will be a huge help. If there was quota, I would have made it to teaching or my second interest – Haryana police at least –with relaxation in age and physical parameters for backward classes. I’m ready to kill my dreams for any government job – be it clerk or patwari. But I haven’t succeeded despite repeated attempts,” he says.
Duhan comes from a typical Jat family in Rohtak – the epicentre of the stir — that has seen land holdings shrinking with every generation.
“My father’s family had 12 acre of farm land, but then it kept getting divided among brothers. He is now left with just one acre. We are two brothers. There is no way we can survive on such a small piece of land. Hamein kaun dega apni chori shadi mein (who will give their daughter’s hand in marriage to us)?” he says.
He isn’t the only one to have such concerns. There are several similar stories in the state where the land holdings have shrunk due to fragmentation and constant crop failures.
The youths from the community, who are not enthused by employment opportunities in private sector, see a government job as the answer to all their problems.
Opinion is divided on whether Jats, a dominant caste with considerable political clout and social standing as compared to other sections of the society in the state, require reservation or not.
Though Jats have enjoyed political power and its perks in Haryana for a long period of time, those seeking reservation feel the community needs quota due to social, economic and educational backwardness.
Within one year, this is the third time the community has started a stir for reservation.
The one in February last year had seen unprecedented violence
This time, the agitation has been peaceful till now. There have been no road blockades or untoward situation.