Jat protesters are using women as shields against thousands of security personnel deployed to quell the violent pro-quota demonstrations in Haryana that have left at least 10 people dead.
Women, mostly from agricultural families, are participating in the movement in large numbers following reports that the army may act firmly against demonstrators in a bid to end road blockades that have crippled traffic and transportation of essential goods.
The plan received a boost when a group of female protesters forced soldiers to end a flag march in Rohtak district and turn back. The demonstrators are of the view that the army will not target the women as they do not have female personnel on the ground.
HT spoke to some of the women participating in the protests and they said they had joined of their own free will.
“We have to come out of our houses as our sons are being killed by security personnel,” said Sangeeta who had come from Jhajjar district.
Reports said some protesters wanted to draft the residents of the girls’ hostel at the district’s Maharshi Dayanand University into the movement but the institute authorities did not allow them to enter.
“We are fighting for our children’s future. We will do what our family members want us to do,” said Sunita, another participant.
Media reports quoted sources saying the defence ministry had given the army a free hand, for the first time, to take action against those involved in looting and rioting.
“It is wrong to allege that women are being used as shields, but they have joined the protest as they want to support their husbands and sons,” said local khap leader and Kurukshetra University professor Santosh Dahiya.