People of the Jat community in Haryana on Sunday held their second agitation in five months amid high alert in some of the districts as the state government tightened security across the state to avoid any violence this time round. The government imposed Section 144 in sensitive districts on Saturday and also blocked internet services.
The Akhil Bhartiya Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (ABJASS) called for a state-wide strike from Sunday against the delay in implementation of the new reservation Act that grants quota to Jats and some other communities under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had on Thursday stayed the implementation of the Act.
However, not many people from the community turned up for the strike held at Jainpur Jattan village in Kurukshetra district, Matloda in Panipat district, Balla in Karnal district and Khichana Kuyi in Kaithal district on Sunday, the Hindustan Times reported.
In Kaithal and Panipat districts, only 40-50 people gathered for the dharna, but at least 2,000 people had turned up from Rohtak and other nearby districts at Jassia village, 20 km away from Rohtak city, according to the Hindu.
"We have filed an FIR against the organisers of this protest as they are in violation of Section-144. The matter is under investigation. Till then, we are keeping a close watch to make sure there is no illegal activity. The situation is under control," Rohtak Superintendent of Police Shashank Anand said after visiting the site of the protest.
The organisers of the strike have said they would continue to hold protests until the Act is implemented. "We will not get up from here till we see the government doing something. We have been listening to false promises for so long; now, no more," the Hindu quoted Rohtak in-charge of ABJASS Ashok Balhara as saying.
The Haryana Assembly had on March 29 passed a bill that would have granted 10 percent reservation to the people of the five castes â€” Jat, Jat Sikhs, Rors, Bishnois and Tyagis â€” in educational institutions, and Class-III and IV government jobs, and six percent reservation in Class-I and Class-II jobs.
However, the Act was challenged by a resident of Bhiwani. The petitioner questioned the constitutional validity of the Haryana Backward Classes (Reservation in Services and Admission in Educational Institutions) Act, 2016, the Indian Express reported.
Heavy security in place in the state
The first round of protests carried out by some members of the Jat community demanding reservation in February turned violent leading to the death of at least 30 people. The report of the investigation into the violence and the handling of it by the administration revealed the state authorities slacked at their work. At least 90 cops were indicted for failing to contain the situation.
However, this time the state government has prepared well in advance to deal with any untoward incident during the protests, which the organisers said would be peaceful.
The state authorities have imposed Section 144 of CrPC or Criminal Procedure Code, prohibiting gathering of five or more persons in an area, in several districts in the state, Press Trust of India reported.
Central and state police forces have also been deployed and they carried out flag marches in sensitive areas such as Rohtak, Sonipat, Bhiwani, Hisar, Jind, Kaithal and Jhajjar. Paramilitary forces and Haryana police have been deployed on the national highways and railway tracks.
"Fifty-five companies of paramilitary personnel drawn from CRPF, RAF, ITBP and BSF have been deployed in sensitive districts," PTI quoted Haryana's Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas as saying. Each company has at least 100 personnel.
Internet and bulk SMS services have been suspended for an unspecified duration in order to prevent rumours from spreading. "Social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Google Plus and mobile internet could be misused for this purpose," Sonipat District Magistrate K Makarand Pandurang said.
The state government has set up a 24-hour helpline number, 0172-2740390, in Chandigarh, NDTV reported.