Not just Haryana, even Cabinet is divided
These are no minor gashes. The ongoing Jat agitation in Haryana has caused deep wounds in the minds and psyche of its people and resulted in caste polarisation being firmly entrenched.What started as a “Jat versus non-Jat” conflict has ended up as a great divide.
With no signs of the violence abating, statements of politicians have exacerbated the social divide that has manifested itself along caste lines. Initially, goons in the garb of Jat protesters attacked the affluent, looting and burning properties. In Rohtak, Jhajjar and Deswali, affluent Punjabis and other rich were targeted.
The “Jat versus non-Jat” pattern soon turned into “have-nots versus haves” and “one caste versus the other”.
That division has become apparent even in the state Cabinet, with Jat ministers trying to appease the protesters, forcing the government to announce compensation to those who have died along with government jobs to the next of kin, and a “veiled promise” to protect the arsonists from the rule of law. A move that was strongly opposed by the non-Jat ministers.
The Manohar Lal Khattar government’s image has taken a beating. The BJP came to power essentially at the back of non-Jat voters on the promise of “good governance”. With the government failing to control the raging Jats for days, the non-Jat voter now feels betrayed and alienated.
Questions are being raised over why the BJP first tried to appease the Jats by promising reservation and then allowed its MP Raj Kumar Saini to raise an anti-Jat reservation pitch.
Health Minister Anil Vij and other non-Jat ministers today asked for strict action against those indulging in violence. Leaders of other parties have only added to the chaos with the INLD asking for a Vidhan Sabha session on the crisis and Congress’ former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda choosing to sit on a “fast”. A non-Jat leader now plans a counter-agitation, while some others want judicial and other probes.
The state stands divided, and for what in the end?
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, February 22
The decision to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of “innocent” persons killed in the Jat stir met with stiff resistance from non-Jat ministers at the Cabinet meeting here today. Led by Health Minister Anil Vij, the ministers expressed annoyance over “rewarding arsonists”.
The plea that compensation could placate the Jats and help end the stir was outrightly rejected by the non-Jat ministers, who argued that those who had died were involved in looting and arson and that there was no justification in “awarding” their kin.
Though the matter remained unresolved, the government chose to announce the compensation.
It was Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma who made the announcement and not Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. Sharma initially announced that the Chief Secretary would appoint a nodal officer to assess damage and that the role of officials would also be ascertained. The form for filing claims would be made available online and at the office of DCs and money released within a month, he said. Oddly, it was after the conclusion of the press meet that Sharma returned to announce the ex gratia.
The two Jat ministers, Capt Abhimanyu and OP Dhankar, were away for the cremation of Capt Pawan Kumar.