As the ongoing agitation by the Patels for reservation in education and jobs turned violent in Gujarat, other communities in the country are seeking similar caste-based quotas and have threatened to hold protests if their demands are not met.
Eight people have died in widespread violence triggered by a snowballing movement by the Patels for reservations, forcing the government to deploy the army and impose a curfew in parts of the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for peace in a video message in Gujarati with images of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's images in the backdrop, saying violence served no purpose. Notwithstanding Modi's appeal for peace, protesters resorted to arson, stone-pelting and attacks on public and private properties.
Curfew has been clamped in Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Mehsana, Patan, Palanpur, Unjha, Visnagar and Jamnagar towns. Normal life was paralysed in several parts of Gujarat with schools, colleges and business establishments such as banks and public transport closed following a shutdown called by the group spearheading the stir, the Patidari Anamat (Reservation) Andolan Samiti (PAAS). Mobile internet services were blocked in Ahmedabad.
In Haryana, Jats have threatened to intensify their stir for reservation in education and jobs after a 2013 state government order extending the facility to them and four other communities was stayed by the high court last month.
The state had granted 10% reservation on a recommendation of the Haryana Backward Classes Commission under a special backward class quota for Jats, Jat Sikhs, Bishnois, Rors and Tyagis. A social organisation challenged the decision by the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government of the time and obtained a stay order.
Pressure to oppose the Jats' agitation is being mounted by Other Backward Classes (OBC) led by BJP MP from Kurukshetra, Rajkumar Saini, who has opposed it saying the move would eat into the 27% OBC quota.
A Jat outfit called the Yuva Jat Fauj has announced its plans to launch protests for reservation while Saini has decided to form an OBC brigade to oppose it.
State president of the principal Opposition party in Haryana, the Indian National Lok Dal, Ashok Arora has termed the developments the beginning of divisions in society.
Hawa Singh Sangwan, president of the Haryana unit of the Akhil Bharatiya Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, told HT that his organisation would step up protests as people have realised the BJP was using religion and caste to distract them from real issues.
"Though I am against protests such as blockades on national highways or rail tracks, we would soon announce our agitation for reservation after the ensuing panchayat elections in Haryana," said Sangwan.
Similarly, the Congress in Maharashtra has demanded that the BJP-led government in the state take a decision on the demand of reservations by Marathas, Muslims and Dhangars within 15 days.
Leader of Opposition in the legislative assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said during a press conference that if the Maharashtra government failed to take a decision, it may enrage the people.
"It will show that the government is disregarding people's sentiments. If there is any untoward incident, it would be the responsibility of the government," said Vikhe Patil.
He accused the government of apathy towards the 'bahujan samaj' (a term used for non-Brahmin classes).
"Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had said the first decision his government would take after coming to power would be to grant reservations for the Dhangar community," he said.
The BJP-Shiv Sena government also didn't handle the issue of reservations for Marathas and Muslims - announced by the Congress-NCP government - properly, and the matter was now in the Supreme Court, he said.
Referring to the situation in Gujarat where Patels' agitation has turned violent, the Congress leader lamented that army was needed to be called in the Prime Minister's home state.
"There is a similar demand for quota in Maharashtra. The only thing is, we have been very patient," he said.
Vikhe Patil also alleged that the government was dilly-dallying over the purchase of the house in London where Dr B R Ambedkar had lived during his student days.
Maharashtra Congress has also said that it will hold state-wide protests on September 7 to press for the demand of 5% quota for Muslims in education.
"We demand that the quota for Muslims in education which was partly endorsed by the (Bombay) high court be implemented by promulgation of ordinance. The party will give memorandum to this effect to collectors in all districts," said former minister Mohammed Arif Naseem Khan.
"If the state government does not act on the demand, the party will intensify its agitation," Khan added.
(With PTI inputs)