Soon after the news reached that chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar was planning to seek the Centre’s help besides deploying five Rapid Action Force units to disperse Jat protesters from various spots across Rohtak and neighbouring areas, the situation took a communal turn as Jat leaders started issuing inflammatory statements against Punjabi community, to which Khattar belongs.
Speculations were rife that the RAF would reach the protesting site by Tuesday night. Many called it a cheap trick of the government to threaten the protesting youths. Amid loud cheers from protesters, Jat leader in Sampla Manoj Duhan said: “If anyone even tries to touch us, we will burn entire Quila Road in Rohtak.”
All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) national president Yashpal Malik, too, reached Sampla to extend his support to the protesters. He said Jats were protesting peacefully, and if the Khattar government tried to disrupt the stir by sending in forces, they would have to bear the same consequences as in 2010, when Sunil Sheoran, a Ladwa youth, was killed in police firing during a stir.
Criticising the state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, Malik said, “Forming a four-member committee to look into the demand was another lie that the government wanted Jats seeking reservation under the other backward class (OBC) category to believe. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Khattar had said the same lie in March 2015, and our brothers remain a victim to their anti-Jat governance.”
Malik said he had brought Jat leaders from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh to Sampla, and taking inspiration from the Jats protesting here, he would start another protest on the Mayyar railway tracks in Hisar from February 21 as planned. He asked Jats to stay strong and continue their protest until the BJP government agreed to their demands.
Protesters show no sign of relenting
Meanwhile, the whole region came to a still as hundreds of trains were affected and highways remained blocked. Around a dozen of trains were cancelled while others were diverted or running late.
Even as around 200 people of Rohtak district, including several Jat leaders, who had taken part in road and rail blockades were booked for rioting and other related offences late on Monday evening, protesters showed no signs of relenting. Cops deployed at the protest sites remained helpless as youths put up police barricades to stop commuters. With many Jat student associations joining the protest on Monday, the stir was intensified by Tuesday.
Announcements were made in villages asking Jat youths to come out on the roads and fight for their rights. Children, as young as six years old, were seen laying siege to the area around their villages giving a tough time to the commuters.
Several schools declared holiday as school buses got stuck in jams. More than 1,000 trucks ran aground while thousands remained stranded, as Jats closed alternative routes to leave the city as well. Jat leaders also started collecting donations to arrange for a comfortable food and bedding for the protesters blocking railway tracks.
Sources said 50 deputy superintendents of police (DSPs) had been called to Rohtak and a plan was made to disperse the protesters demonstrating in small numbers at several spots across the city. DSP Amit Bhatia took his force to Asthal Bohar village in Rohtak and dispersed the Jat youths who were causing a traffic jam near Baba Mastnath University. “We have registered cases against 10 youths,” he said.
The agitation reached neighbouring districts of Jind, Jhajjar, Bhiwani, and Sonepat as well. Khap leaders in Bhiwani sealed the Dadri-Jhajjhar-Delhi road in Imlota village and burned the effigy of chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, while raising slogans against the BJP government.
A similar situation prevailed at Jind, where protestors blocked the Jind-Rohtak national highway and the Jind-Gohana road, forcing the government to call off Haryana Roadways bus service in the area.
In Jhajjar, protesting Jat youths set a Haryana Roadways bus on fire at the bus stand. At Mayna village on the Rohtak-Jhajjhar road, police registered complaints against around 250 youths for blocking NH-71A.