No end in sight to Jat stir; Malik says ball in govt's court

No end in sight to Jat stir; Malik says ball in govt's court
There was no end in sight to the Jat agitation in Haryana seeking reservation in education and government jobs which entered 15th day today. Sit-ins and dharnas continued in many areas across the state, a day after a meeting between representatives of a Haryana government-appointed committee and leaders of the agitation remained inconclusive.

Addressing a dharna in Rohtak district, Yashpal Malik, president of the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS), which is spearheading the agitation, said, "The ball is now in the government's court. The dharnas will continue till our demands are met." Even though the agitation remained peaceful, traffic had to be diverted near Makrauli toll plaza and some other points in Rohtak district in view of large numbers of vehicles carrying protesters in the area.

Besides seeking quota in education and government jobs under the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) category, the demands of the Jats include the release of those jailed during last year's agitation, withdrawal of cases slapped during the protest and government jobs for the kin of those killed and injured while taking part in the stir. There is also a demand of action against BJP MP from Kurukshetra constituency Raj Kumar Saini for his alleged anti-Jat rants.

Some Jat activists have alleged that the administration was trying to exert pressure for restricting the participation of volunteers in dharna by sending notices. Malik said the government should intervene and stop exerting pressure on the agitators. February 19 would be observed as 'Balidan Divas' in the memory of those who lost their lives during last year's agitation. The Jats have been staging their main protest at Jassia village in Rohtak district.

The Rohtak-Panipat National highway-71-A on which tractor-trolleys and motorcycles were parked at some points, blocked the traffic movement and police had to divert the traffic away from the side. Despite the prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPc, which bans assembly of five or more persons at public places, a convoy of tractor-trolleys and motorcycles passed through Rohtak district with DJ system belting out songs and protesters, especially the youths, raising "Jat Ekta Zindabad" slogans.

Today, a youth atop a heavy vehicle and part of the protesters, was seen flaunting a gun. The BJP government in the state had earlier this week formed a five-member committee, headed by Chief Secretary D S Dhesi, to hold talks with the agitating Jats. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has said the talks between the government-appointed officers' panel and the Jats would continue in the second round and all points would be discussed.

The main opposition party in Haryana, the INLD, has openly come out in support of the agitating Jats this time and asked the government to meet their demands. During the fresh round of the agitation, the protesters have been staging dharnas at various places in the state amid elaborate security arrangements. Security has been further strengthened in sensitive Rohtak district, officials said. Last year, arsonists had also set fire to the Rohtak residence of Haryana's Finance Minister Abhimanyu.

In view of the fresh Jat stir, paramilitary forces have been deployed in sensitive areas, while the state police is maintaining a strict vigil. The call for the fresh stir was given by certain Jat outfits, especially those owing allegiance to the body headed by Yashpal Malik. Khattar had earlier said the government had accepted the demand of Jats of giving jobs to the next of kin of those who had lost their lives during the agitation last year.

As many as 30 people were killed and property worth crores of rupees was damaged at many places in Haryana during last year's Jat stir which had turned violent. However, this time the state has been put on maximum alert, the officials said. Rohtak and some of its neighbouring districts, including Sonipat and Jhajjar, were the worst hit by the violence last year.
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