Violent protests by the Jats of Haryana, who are demanding reservation in jobs and education, entered the second day on Tuesday. But few, including most protestors, know much about Yashpal Malik, the man leading the agitation.
Once a property developer, Malik is now national president of the All-India Jat Arakshan Samiti (AIJAS), which is at the forefront of the quota stir. His outfit wants Jats to be recognised as one of the Other Backward Castes (OBCs), so they too can benefit from reservation across the country.
Malik, who hails from Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh and made it big in the real estate business in Ghaziabad and adjoining areas, led talks with a state government delegation to end the standoff triggered by the death of a youth allegedly in police firing in Hisar district on Monday.
“There is hardly anyone who knew him or had even heard about him here before this. I also met him for the first time today,” a Congress leader, who was one of the negotiators, said.
The negotiations were held by Malik and some local leaders with the state team comprising Haryana chief minister’s political adviser Prof Virender and former ministers Sampat Singh and Jai Prakash.
Malik told HT that AIJAS had planned peaceful demonstrations at 62 places in about a dozen states on Monday.
But the police, led by the local SP, started firing indiscriminately at the protestors. One person was killed and the protest turned violent.
“We ended the dharna after the government decided to take action against the policemen and accepted all our 13 demands, including declaring the youth killed in police firing a martyr. However, our nationwide stir for OBC status will continue. There will be let up in it,” he said.
AIJAS had earlier threatened to disrupt the Commonwealth Games, to be staged in Delhi during October, if their OBC status demand is not met.
The caste-based outfit is a breakaway group of All India Jat Mahasabha, which is headed by wrestler and former MP Dara Singh.