The Jat Agitation: Insights from Inside
You and me, were astounded when Jats ruled the streets and caused mayhem in Haryana recently in February 2016.
My first interaction with this community was more than 30 years back. My school Head Master Major MS Hooda was an intellectual, simple officer. His son Sanjay, my class mate was awarded the Medal for Merit at Indian Military Academy years later, and still continues to be one of the best officers of his batch. Some of my friends for quarter of a century – Aditya Rathee to Anil Yadav remain one of the most sophisticated, stylish and polished guys I have met in my life and on the other hand I have friends like Naresh Yadav, Jaswant, Sid Malik and Akash Sirohi who are straightforward simple souls for whom 2+2 is always 4 and nothing else. So, when this agitation took place, I was confused, like many of you.
The protests caused a loss of ₹340 billion. The Railways suffered a loss of ₹2 billion and killed 30 people. All of us wondered –Why on earth would an affluent forward looking society cause such destruction on an issue such as reservation? Why would not they take a peaceful route for resolving any issue of dispute?
I was not convinced with the media’s version of the agitation. My search led me nowhere, till my friend from this community opened his heart up. This blog is dedicated to him- Anil Kumar. He is a son of the soil and his report is fairly accurate regarding the issue at hand. Before we read, what he has to say, let us study what in the world is the word JAT all about.
Jats. JATS are a traditionally agricultural community in North India Their population is around 82.5 million. In Haryana, they form 29% of the state’s population. 7 out of state’s 10 chief ministers have been Jats. In UP they form less than 6% of the population, but their concentration in Western Uttar Pradesh makes them an important vote bank in more than 50 assembly seats.
Martial Race. The Jats were designated as a “martial race” by the British, which meant that they were one of the groups who were favoured for recruitment into the British Indian Army. Indian Army has the Jat Regiment which is an Infantry Regiment. It is one of the longest serving and most decorated regiments of the Indian Army. The regiment has won numerous battle honours and innumerable number of awards and medals since 17th century. Their War Cry is “Jat Balwan, Jai Bhagwan”! Well, this blog is not about their martial capability, which otherwise is well documented.
Analysis from the eyes of Anil. Jats are basically tribal in their customs and traditions. One brother will fight with another, but both unite if the issue is with a third party. Similarly one Mohalla may fight with neighboring Mohalla, but when it comes to an inter village fight, the entire village becomes one. They may fight till their last breath in each other’s support, even cause or suffer fatal casualty, but will never go to a Police Station and file FIR. Because for them seeking legal assistance is considered bringing ultimate disgrace to the community. Things are however changing now. Issues are generally resolved by dialogue amongst elders, rather than by application of law, and we all know they have their own Khap Panchayats. Own Izzat, Family Izzat, Village Pride and Surname carry lot of value even today. As a kid, during a break from a well known public school, my friend participated in one such inter Mohalla fight over an affair between a boy and a girl and sustained injuries. We need to understand their mind set to understand as to how recent events unfolded and why Police/ Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) became totally ineffective during recent agitation.
Haryana has 36 Biradaries/ castes/ communities. Jats are the single largest but account for only about 29% of population. Remaining 35 Biradaries / Non Jats account for over 70%. Jats generally dominate most of the rural areas while Non Jats are concentrated in urban areas. Each of the community used to specialise in certain specific area of work and complement each other. However, things are changing now.
Politics. The present State Govt came to power mainly with the support of Non Jats. They made their own political calculations like any political outfit to retain power in future by tapping into the 70% Non Jat vote bank. Even if they are able to garner about half the votes from these communities, their victory is certain. With these calculations, the party after coming to power started encouraging activities directed at polarising Non Jats against Jats. They fed Non Jats that Jats have been exploiting them for centuries, and to avenge that, Jats have to be driven out from all state jobs/ political seats and they have to be publicly thrashed. That could only be possible if all Non Jats unite against Jats. As a result, anger/ hatred was building amongst these communities against each other. Jats anger was building against Govt in return, as Non Jats were receiving tacit support from the Govt.
Is Reservation an issue? Before Feb 2016 protests, Jats enjoyed OBC status in 7 states: Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. However, Jats were not included in the Central Government’s list of OBC castes. In Punjab and Haryana, however they did not enjoy any reservation benefits. In Rajasthan, the Jats from Bharatpur and Dholpur districts were excluded from the OBC list, as the former kingdoms of Bharatpur and Dholpur had been ruled by Jats. The reasons behind seeking reservation, can be attributed due to other contributing factors like drastic reduction in land holdings, Jats not knowing many other vocations other than Agriculture or joining the Army.
Reservation was not a very serious or emotional issue with the Jats. It was a political gimmick supported by various parties at various points in time. This time it was being actively and tacitly supported by the state opposition parties. However, things started turning bad when other communities started holding counter demonstrations/ rallies/ speeches at various places, with support from the Govt.
Tipping Point. The final trigger appears to be an incident in Jat College, Rohtak on 18 Feb 2016. Jat College had students mostly from rural background. It is considered the hub of Jat student politics. On the preceding night, one DSP from a specific community, reportedly under Govt orders, brought a huge police contingent to the Jat College Hostel. They segregated Jat students by checking their I Cards, and thrashed them badly, leaving some with broken bones and few others in ICU. News spread in nearby villages that students have been beaten up. Next day by noon, villagers in tractor trolleys reached Rohtak. Some of them went to meet the DIG to protest peacefully. A firing took place where some protesters were killed. Things took violent turn in the afternoon. Initial violence/ rioting was entirely by Jat youth and villagers. However, next night, other elements took over and indulged in looting/ rioting. By the third night burning incidents were reported, some by design where certain shopkeepers did it themselves, after removing their stock.
Earlier everyone were under impression that CAPF was not there. It was very much present, but reportedly under orders from Govt not to do anything. The entire Govt machinery was missing reportedly due to indirect indications from Govt not to do anything. Facing violence and with no Police or local civil Govt officials to direct/ support their actions, the CAPF also fled the scene. Some in the Govt calculated that by allowing violence/ rioting to continue, it would possibly serve their political cause, of uniting Non Jat against Jats in their favour. It appears to have backing of central Leadership as Central Govt was very prompt in praising the Chief Minister’s handling of the sit. That is why no serious action is being contemplated against any official. The Jats finally calmed down when Army was deployed.
What is the present sit? On the surface, things appear normal. But underneath, there are severe under currents. Inter communal rifts are only going to get widened. Reservation has now become an emotive issue with the Jats. It possibly cannot be extended to them. Hence there is a possibility that we may see communal clashes in near future. We do hope against hope that such things do not happen.
The property losses do not appear to be as much as initially reported. State Govt has already credited 25% of claimed amount without verification. And the affected people have claimed anything up to 4-5 times their actual loss. So this initial amount itself is sufficient to restart their lives. Repair work is going on at most places. After couple of months, we will not be able to even find signs of those damages. That way, the business community is great. Hats off to them.
A word about alleged Murthal incident. It was kept in news for couple of days by certain specific media houses. As per all indications, no such incident had ever happened. Initial reports said that the victimized ladies without clothes were gathered in one specific Dhaba, but the news fizzled out when it was found that the Dhaba owner had his video footage intact to disprove this. Then came one lady who claimed names of seven persons, but soon it became known that she had filed similar complaints against the same seven persons many times earlier also. All persons whose vehicles had been damaged were contacted but denied any such incident. It so appears that this is a rumor mongering by some vested interests. However some witnesses do claim that there is certainly some truth to the allegation. It could have very well happened. No one really knows whether it was done by lawless criminals or organised groups of Jats. We however, should condemn this incident vehemently and hope that law will proceed against these low level criminals, whoever has done it.
There are heroes too while this violence took place. There have been numerous instances when Jats have stood up for their neighbors of the other community and despite the harassment and abuses from their own people, did not allow the rioters to touch the property. I am personally aware of such first-hand accounts of few of them from parents of some of my friends.
Epilogue: Finally, whom do we blame for all this which happened in Haryana? Answers are difficult. The political parties will continue to fish in troubled waters with their politicking. Our society has deep fault lines. Till such time caste/ community/ creed remains part of our emotional psyche, problem will remain. We hope things will change. It will possibly take one or more generations for these divisions to become irrelevant. Till such time, we can only pray. After all, we have so many Gods to help us in times of need.
This blog is not to absolve anyone of their responsibility or praise any one community. I totally, unequivocally and completely condemn the senseless violence. Our society has to follow peaceful means of dispute resolutions. But I wanted to know why Jats, who Fight for the Nation, Fought within the Nation.
Friends, this is the nearest to the truth that I was able to lay my hands on. I wanted the world to know. I continue to remain shocked at the incident, but at least Anil’s explanation has filled the gaps in my understanding. I hope it has for you too! Share with others who need to know.
Pray the guilty be punished. Let us NOT get influenced by the surface currents as reported but understand the deep machinations that are taking place. Being Aware is Being Warned!
Satyemeva Jayate! Truth alone Triumphs.