Rohtak /Nagpur: At least one person was killed and 20 others were injured on Saturday in Haryana’s Jhajjar after Indian Army personnel fired on Jat protestors, demanding reservation in jobs and education, turned violent and tried to set government buildings on fire.
The protesters, who were trying to set the block development and panchayat office ablaze, fired back at the army using the weapons stolen on Friday night. Eight people have been admitted to various hospitals so far.
A mob of around 10,000 people carrying weapons from the surrounding villages of Rohtak were also seen vandalising private property. Police and army have not been able to reach the area as yet.
District administrations have clamped curfew in Jind, Sonipat and Gohana as violence spread to more areas in Haryana over the Jat quota row. Curfew was already in place in Rohtak, Bhiwani and Jhajjar in the wake of incidents of violence during the Jat agitation.
Haryana chief minister ML Khattar has made a fresh appeal to the people to maintain peace and harmony. “I appeal to all my fellow Haryanvis to maintain law & order in the State, and ensure that harmony is maintained in society,” he tweeted.
Earlier in the day, a mob in Rohtak district’s Meham area set a police station, a petrol pump and a government building on fire.
“The police station has been set on fire by a group of about 2000-2500 people. They went on a rampage today and also set on fire a petrol pump, a government building and a banquet hall,” Rajender Singh, sub-inspector and SHO of Meham police station, said.
Singh said the situation was tense in the area and additional forces have been summoned to bring the situation under control. The army is already out in the district, which has been worst hit by the stir, to bring the situation under control.
In another incident in Jhajjar district, a mob pelted stones at the house of senior Haryana minister OP Dhankar, one of the prominent Jat politicians in the state, on Saturday afternoon. “The mob threw stones at Dhankar’s house, but no one was injured,” a police official said.
The Budha Khera Railway Station in Jind district was also set on fire by some unidentified people as the Jat stir continued for the seventh day. The record room, furniture and other articles were set on fire at the railway station, which falls on the Jind-Panipat rail section, police said.
The army conducted a flag march in violence-hit Rohtak, where three people were allegedly killed and 78 others injured in firing and clash between security personnel and Jats on Friday. The army could not enter Rohtak initially as protesters had put up blockades at several places, forcing the authorities to air drop them using helicopters.
A contingent of the army also took out a flag march on Saturday morning in Bhiwani. The administration has asked people to stay at homes, official sources said.
Agitation in Delhi
The agitation reached the national capital with Delhi University students from the Jat community protesting in the North Campus, leading to traffic jams on the Mall Road. The agitating students sat on the road demanding reservation for their community, even as police were deployed to control the situation.
“Injustice is being done to us. This is our protest against the BJP government,” one of the protestors said.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, defence minister Manohar Parrikar and minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju held a meeting at home minister Rajnath Singh’s residence in Delhi.
Bharatiya Janata Party leaders (BJP) Sanjeev Balyan, Om Prakash Dhankar, Anil Jain and Ram Lal also held a meeting at the party office. They will meet BJP president Amit Shah after the meeting.
Buses, trains suspended
All inter-state trains and buses plying between Jammu and Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine base camp town of Katra were suspended in view of the Jats’ stir in Haryana, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded, an official said.
“Except for two early morning trains that arrived here, all inter-state trains have been suspended to and from Jammu city and Katra town today (Saturday),” a senior Indian Railways officer told IANS.
As many as 72 trains have been cancelled while 22 have been partially cancelled by the railway authorities. A number of passenger trains, long distance including super fast passing through or originating in Haryana will remain cancelled on Saturday, railway authorities said.
Northern Railway’s chief public relations officer Neeraj Sharma told ANI that routes passing through Panipat, Rohtak and Rewadi have been closed. He said there have been fire incidents at Jhajjar station and at a halt near Sonipat adding that tracks have been damaged at some places.
Nearly 550 trains were either cancelled or diverted since the agitation began a week ago.
Buses from Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi and other state were also suspended after members of the Jat community blocked roads across the state. The protesters also set afire a Haryana roadways bus near Kalanaur town of the district early in the morning.
Curfew, shoot-at-sight orders
The agitation escalated and turned violent soon after an all-party meeting held by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Friday issued an appeal for calling off the stir. After the meeting, Khattar had said the state government will prepare a draft bill for giving reservation to Jats and that suggestions have also been sought from all parties in this regard.
Jat leaders rejected the offer made by the state government and said that the stir would continue till their demand is met.
The Haryana government had called the army in nine districts and imposed curfew and shoot-at-sight orders in Bhiwani and Rohtak districts.
The Centre also sent in 3,300 paramilitary personnel as rampaging mobs held policemen captive, vandalised a mall, set ablaze several government and private properties including the houses of a minister and pelted stones at the residence of an MLA from the ruling BJP.
Schools were ordered to be closed across the state and mobile internet services were suspended in almost all the districts.