Clashes in Rohtak as Jat stir spreads in Haryana

Chandigarh: Clashes erupted between two groups in Haryana's Rohtak town on Thursday evening as the agitation by Jats spread in the state and threw normal life out of gear in many districts.

Pro and anti-Jat reservation protestors clashed near the district court complex in Rohtak. Several people were beaten up in the process and people threw chairs at each other during the clash.

Two motorcycles were set on fire during the clash.

Reports from Rohtak said that the Haryana Police tried to remove Jat protestors from the Jind chowk area but had to retreat as the protestors pelted them with stones and bricks.

Authorities in Rohtak and other districts ordered imposition of prohibitory orders, banning the assembly of five or more people at a place.

The agitation by the Jats in support of their demand for reservation continued to affect normal life in various districts for the fifth day on Thursday.

Even as the protests by the Jats -- demanding reservation in jobs and educational institutions -- spread to more areas on Thursday, losses continued to mount for the railways, roadways, transporters and other private operators due to road and rail blockades put up by agitators.

Parleys between Jat leaders and Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Wednesday had failed to resolve the deadlock on the issue.

The Haryana cabinet met here on Thursday to review the situation arising out of the ongoing agitation by Jats.

Agriculture Minister O.P. Dhankar said that an all party meeting has been convened here on Friday to discuss the issue, and the cabinet has appealed to the agitating Jats to call off their agitation in the larger interest of the state.

He said that the administration and police were fully alert to meet any eventuality but as a result of the agitation, supply of essential commodities like LPG, petrol and necessary services like ambulances have been adversely affected, causing problems to the people.

Road and rail routes were blocked around Rohtak town, 75 km from Delhi, and at other places in Jhajjar, Sonipat, Hisar, Bhiwani, Kaithal and Jind districts. The Rohtak-Delhi railway track has also been blocked. No state roadways buses are able to leave or reach Rohtak town.

People in Rohtak faced inconvenience as essential supplies were disrupted. Students were unable to attend classes due to blockades. Some schools and colleges have been shut since Monday.

"At several places, protestors blocked highways and roads by parking trucks and other vehicles and putting up make-shift barricades of cut trees and big stones. It seems the Haryana government and police are mere mute spectators as people continue to suffer," Rohtas Kumar, a college student in Rohtak, said.

Paramilitary forces have been deployed in and around Rohtak and other affected districts.

"Loss to the railways due to cancellation of over 25 trains and diversion of others can run into several crores of rupees daily," a senior railway official of Ambala division told IANS.

Protestors in Hisar district, 240 km from here, blocked the NH-10 (Delhi-Hisar) and the Hisar-Chandigarh highway, as well as railway lines in the area also, including the Hisar-Bhiwani and Hisar-Ludhiana tracks.

Jat leaders warned that the agitation will not be withdrawn till the Khattar government came out with substantive action on their demands.

"The Khattar government did not show any sign to resolve the matter. They did not come up with any concrete proposal for the Jat community at a meeting held in Chandigarh yesterday (Wednesday)," said Jat leader Satbir Punia, who attended the meeting.

The Haryana government on Wednesday announced doubling of quota for the EBC (Economically Backward Classes) category to 20 percent after the meeting. The Jats have rejected the move.

Khattar on Thursday again appealed to the protestors to remove the blockades, saying his government "is trying its best to resolve the issue".