The joke that’s doing the rounds on the internet and text messaging app is that while the world dreams of going forward, only people in India fight a tough battle to be called ‘backward.’ The reference is to the Jat reservation stir that has been rocking Haryana for more than a week now.
Haryana’s Jat community held the state hostage and got involved in violent incidents of loot, arson, and rampage to demand the reservation quota of OBC (Other Backward Caste). Now, after nine days, the state looks devastated, looted and burned by its own people. Well-known personalities from the community have appealed for peace, and have stated that the matter can be settled without harming the state.
Amid all the chaos, a purported audio tape of ex-Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s political adviser Professor Virender Singh has emerged, in which he is heard talking to a “captain” that the “protest was doing well in their area”, while nothing much was happening elsewhere.
Areas around Rohtak and Jhajjar have been the worst-hit, which are Hooda’s political strongholds. But it’s fishy how Hooda and his son Deepender Hooda who is a Congress MLA from Rohtak, escaped from their hometown just before the riot grew violent.
Although the mob in Rohtak went around demolishing public and private properties, they bypassed Hooda’s house as if guided by an invisible hand. While people outside Haryana wondered how was the mob functioning without any leader, the fog is now beginning to lift as to who could have had vested interests to engineer the violent protests.
Actor Randeep Hooda, the first one from Bollywood to react to the goings-on in Haryana, has stated on Twitter: “Ram Ram. Apne hi ghar mein aag lagane ka Kya fayda?Baat cheet se hi baat aage badhegi.Bhai Ya tod phod band karo.” Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat, who hails from Haryana, tweeted: “My appeal to the jaat community to maintain peace and nonviolence.”
Wrestler-turned-actor, Sangram Singh appealed the people of his state (Haryana) to keep calm. In her video, national chess player Anuradha Beniwal has made a very emotional appeal to the Jats, that burning own houses will take us nowhere. Progress will shy away from Haryana because schools are being gutted.
Meanwhile, with roads and railways blocked in Haryana, airlines used the opportunity to mint money. Since Saturday, airlines were charging anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 55,000 for the one-hour flight between Delhi and Chandigarh, as against the fare of Rs 2,500-Rs 3,000 on normal days. On Sunday, last-minute airfare between Chandigarh and Delhi crossed Rs 99,000, for a one-way economy class ticket.
The demand for quota has risen from a sense of great displacement. Due to lack of proper education, many Jat youths are sitting unemployed. The community who has been mainly into farming, lost their lands to previous governments. The lands were bought from them, but were sold at dirt cheap prices to builders. The Jats want to be called OBCs, because they are lagging behind economically. They believe reservation would ensure that they get some government jobs within the state.
However, in their quest to be called “backward” they have pulled back the progress of the state too. There is no logic in burning down schools and torching trains and railway stations. But this irony is lost on the community that shows no signs of slowing its protests.
In stark contrast to the demand for reservation, a 23-year-old brave Jat soldier from Jind in Haryana laid down his life while fighting terrorists in south Kashmir. While his native land was burning, Captain Pawan Kumar, the 10 Para Special Forces officer, was leading his men from the front in a complicated operation. His last post on Facebook said, “Kisiko reservation chahiye to kisiki ko azadi bhai. Humein kutch nahin chahiye bhai. bas apni razai.” (Some want reservation and some want independence. I do not want anything, except my blanket).