Haryana’s social fabric has been torn asunder in the worst caste violence in its history over reservation in government jobs and education institutes.
But amid the horror and despair are also heart-warming stories of how some Jats are now helping non-Jat families rebuild lives and livelihoods.
Luckily for Rajat Gupta, his small books and stationery shop, the Haryana Education Store, at Medical Chowk in the heart of Rohtak town did not betray his caste --- Baniya. When protesters were burning down property of Punjabis, Sainis and Baniyas in the area, including a three-storey hospital and diagnostic centre of a Punjabi doctor couple, Dr Anita and Arun Narula, Rajat’s parents stood guard for two nights at his shop fearing the same fate.
At a time, the tenants --- most shops had no insurance --- are awaiting government compensation to rebuild their livelihood, the Jat owners are not demanding any rent.
“Most shops in the area have been rented out to Baniyas and Punjabis by Jats. Itna bhaichara abhi baki hai ki rent nahi maang rahe (there is still so much brotherhood that they have not demanded rent). Indirectly, they are also suffered losses due to the riots,” says Rajat.
Though only shops and businesses of non-Jat communities were targeted by the rampaging mob, among the victims were also Jats who took to entrepreneurship or jobs in private sector.
Of the many pictures of the violence at Rohtak, that of over 150 charred cars at Chevrolet showroom is perhaps one of the most telling. Ironically, the showroom has a Jat manager, Rajinder Dhaka. “We make our living from private jobs. This was my place of worship and they destroyed it. Insurance companies have a clause under which they do not cover vehicles damaged during riots. We don’t know how to even estimate the loss as all records have gone up in smoke,” says Dhaka, an ex-servicemen.
The main worry of non-Jats such as Sanjeev, a service adviser at the showroom, is of losing jobs after the trail of devastation. “I don’t know whether Jats will get reservation in government jobs but youths like me who have worked hard to get good private jobs may be rendered jobless if businesses move out of the town,” he says.
Amrit Lal and Brij Lal, the two guards on duty, recount the horror. “There were over 400 people carrying a loudspeaker and hammers and a few of them even raced the cars before banging these into each other or a wall. Later, they set these vehicles afire,” they added.
Rajinder Dhaka says the mob was shouting slogans of “Jat Ekta” and spared nothing, not even the bathrooms. “The violence was a blot on my community. No caste allows its people to target livelihoods of others,” he says.
The owner of the building in the town where a gun house was looted and burnt down by the mob is also a Jat and so was his tenant. Nitin Singh, puts his losses at Rs 70 lakh from damage to the building and Rs 2 lakh per month on account of rent.
“The curfew was only in newspapers and news channels. The entire first two storeys of my building have been torched. Only the last floor, leased out to Airtel, has not been damaged. Though the stock was insured by company, I had not insured the building. It will take many years for businesses to recover. Many will move out of Rohtak,” he says.
Jats like him question why should quota be on caste lines. “If, at all, there has to be reservation, it should be on the basis of economic criteria. There are rich among all communities and if given reservation, they are the ones who are most likely to corner the benefits,” adds Nitin.