World | Asia

February 19, 2016

India: Army Out in Haryana as Jats Set Minister’s House on Fire; One Dead

The Haryana Government was forced to requisition the Army in several districts of the state on Friday after Jat mobs on a rampage set on fire the house of Finance Minister Capt Abhimanyu Sindhu as well as several vehicles in Rohtak.
Police at a protest site in Rohtak on Friday

Police at a protest site in Rohtak on Friday

One protester was killed when the police opened fire in the city as a mob took a DSP and a few other policemen hostage and attacked the office and house of the Rohtak range IG of Police. Several vehicles were set on fire at the local Circuit House. At least 10 protesters were injured. They were admitted in hospital. The police had first fired shots in the air.

In Jhajjar, a police post was set ablaze at Dighal. In Jind district, protesters, including women, took control of two railway stations on the Delhi-Ferozepur railway track.

Even as rioting and arson gave a dangerously violent turn to the ongoing Jat agitation on Friday, the state DGP said their priority was to bring under control mobs moving about in Rohtak.

He said the Army was being called out in eight districts of Haryana in aid of the police as the Police Lines in Rohtak was also under threat. Twenty more companies of paramilitary forces had also been requisitioned.

The Army Chief and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had been contacted to deploy Army columns in Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonepat, Bhiwani, Jind, Hisar, Kaithal and Panipat by tonight.

The DGP said the security of all ministers and MLAs had been increased after the car and house of Capt Abhimanyu were set ablaze in Rohtak.

The situation got out of hand on Friday morning even as Internet and mobile SMS services were suspended in six districts by the authorities to prevent spread of communally sensitive messages.

Jats have been blocking several roads in the state to press their demand for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions under the OBC category.

The situation had turned riot-like after clashes between members of Jat and non-Jat communities here last evening.

In view of the increasing tension, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice to the State of Haryana on a public interest petition complaining of the inconvenience caused to the general public due to rail and road blocks. The petition also alleged inaction on the part of the government in dealing with the situation. The petition was filed this morning and heard the same day in view of the urgency.

Educational institutions, shops and other business establishments remained closed and markets wore a deserted look in the affected districts.

"Internet and SMS services have been suspended in some districts, including Rohtak and Bhiwani," said Rohtak District Magistrate DK Behera.

The decision has been taken "to maintain law and order", he said. However, he said mobile services would continue in the district.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar presided over an all-party meeting today to discuss the Jats' demands.

Khattar said the state government would bring in a Bill in the Budget session to provide reservation for Jats under the Special Backward Classes category if there was consensus among the stakeholders. 

The meeting was attended by former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Congress leaders Ashok Tanwar and Kiran Choudhry and Ashok Arora of the INLD. However, Leader of the Opposition Abhay Chautala, who has been demanding a special session of the Haryana Assembly on the issue, did not attend the meeting.

Normal life has been badly hit because of the ongoing Jat agitation, which spread to more parts of the state after talks between the community leaders and government failed to break the deadlock.

The Karnal Deputy Commissioner has imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in the district. 

Protests have disrupted road and rail traffic, with the worst hit being the Rohtak-Jhajjar region, the epicentre of the protests, besides Bhiwani, Sonipat and Hisar.

The protesters, who have rejected Khattar's offer for the enhancing quota for economically backward classes to include Jats, also set up road blockades at many places in Panipat, which also affected movement of vehicles towards Uttar Pradesh.

In view of the blockades, Haryana Roadways has suspended bus services on many affected routes. 

Yesterday, at least 20 persons were injured in clashes between Jats and non-Jats in Rohtak even as the police and paramilitary forces resorted to a lathi charge and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the warring groups, which pelted stones on each other as well as the police.

Several vehicles were also damaged. The BSF and the police held a flag march in the town and cleared the roads of blockades.

Despite Section 144 imposed by the district administration, the defiant Jat protesters obstructed road and rail traffic. Irked by the inconvenience caused to the public, a group comprising non-Jats held a protest march. 

A clash ensued near the local judicial complex with some lawyers backing the Jats. Students demonstrating nearby too joined the lawyers. Another clash occurred near Chhotu Ram Chowk.

State alerts 

  • Kurukshetra MP Raj Kumar Saini threatens to lead 'direct action’ against Jat protesters if the Haryana government fails to bring normalcy by Sunday.
  • Karnal DC imposes Section 144, CrPC, in district.
  • Karnal-Indri-Yamunanagar state highway blocked by protesting Jats
  • Roads blocked near Chiaon and Narukheri villages in Karnal.
  • National highway blocked in Yamunanagar.
  • Jats block Saha-Shahabad road in Ambala.
  • Hisar highway blocked near Naagal village, 20 km from Ambala, for half an hour. 
  • Around 2,000 Jats block railway track near Rajlu Garhi railway station between Sonepat and Gannaur.

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