Jat protests demanding reservation under OBC category have taken on a caste colour with violence erupting across Haryana.
Reports from Rohtak indicate that Jat protestors looted and vandalised properties owned by people from other castes, while counter-protests launched by other communities set a Jat dharamshala on fire in Bhiwani.
With protests becoming increasingly violent, residents — particularly those from non-Jat communities such as Punjabis, Banias and Brahmins — were forced to confine themselves to their homes for safety.
“One of my family friends in Rohtak, who comes from a non-Jat caste, was hysterical on the phone today. He sought my advice as to whether his family should vacate their house and take refuge outside Haryana. Such is the panic in the region,’’ said a senior IPS officer deputed in the district.
The single largest community in the state, Jats are reportedly incensed over being sidelined in 2014, when Manohar Lal Khattar, a Punjabi, was elevated as chief minister, bringing to an end their 18-year reign in Haryana.
“The aggression was there but it was a controlled one since there were always prudent faces who tried to tone down the diatribe. However, once the youngsters took things in their own hands, there was no stopping them. The fact is that the agitation has become leaderless and directionless. Unemployed youth, miscreants and hoodlums have taken over things,” said an official.
Seeds of discontent in the community can be traced back to the 2014 elections, when the BJP came to power for the first time in the state by registering massive wins in parts where non-Jat communities wielded power. It won 21 of 23 seats in six districts in northern Haryana and all 11 seats in southern Haryana, where Jats were a minority.
Congress, on the other hand, won 10 out of its tally of 15 from the Deswali belt of Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonepat, primarily due to the influence of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Similarly, another Jat-centric party, the Indian National Lok Dal too did well in Jat-dominated areas.
“It was actually a fight between Jats and non-Jats in 2014. And it has been given...a violent colour now,” said a former Haryana minister.