The violent Jat quota agitation has revived painful memories of Partition for many people caught in the two conflicts separated by seven decades.
At Rohtak, the epicentre of the nine-day-long agitation by Jats demanding reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, people from other communities narrated how agitators unleashed violence and terror in the city, one of the most cosmopolitan urban centres in Haryana.
Before the agitation was called off on Monday night, at least 19 people were killed across several district, most of them in firing by security forces trying to quell mobs of protesters running amok.
“Saanu to ae jaativad hi maar gaya (We have been the victims of casteism,” 80-year-old Santosh Chopra said, recalling the bloody days of 1947 when she lost her relative and comparing the Partition with the recent Jat stir, where her kin lost his shop.
“We were helpless at that time as we watched our neighbours harassing us and we are helpless again as people of our own city robbed our shop and set it ablaze,” she added.
Santosh is not the only one who sees a similarity between the two.
As allegations of selective targeting, violence, fire, robbery and forceful invasions by Jat protesters emerge, Partition survivors said the recent events have revived terrifying memories they have tried to forget.
Many said that business establishments of Punjabi and Saini communities were robbed and burned in the past few days.
“My family stays awake all night. They are traumatised and react to every noise they hear. This reminds me of life after Partition when we stayed awake all night in a vulnerable condition,” said Aatam Prakash Soni, 85, who was a zamindar in Multan when India and Pakistan were one country.
Soni said his grandson’s shop was partially burnt by protesters in Rohtak’s Gandhi Camp area, where most of the Punjabi refugees from Pakistan have settled.
According to 86-year-old Saindas Lulla, a farmer who migrated to India in 1947, both the incidents robbed people of their source of livelihood.
“During the Partition, our home in Lahore was snatched before we even realised it. Here, people who lost their shops, their bread and butter, had no clue that their lifetime of effort would be burnt to ashes without any warning.”
Ramjas Kumar, an 84-year-old retired telephone exchange serviceman, said the recent events once again exposed the “lack of unity” in his community.
“The incidents remind us that we lack unity. During Partition we got killed and robbed because we did not unite to fight against the perpetrators. Again, here too we did not unite to fight the people who were robbing our shops and setting them on fire. If we had unity, we could have stopped the bad elements from destructing our city and country.”