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India: 19 Dead in Violence over Government Jobs

Akash Vashishtha
New Delhi
2016-02-22
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Indian Army personnel patrol in Rohtak following a series of protests by the state’s Jat caste, Feb. 20, 2016.
Indian Army personnel patrol in Rohtak following a series of protests by the state’s Jat caste, Feb. 20, 2016.
AFP

Violence continued across north India’s Haryana state Monday as members of a socially disadvantaged group refused to end their push for government jobs even after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) agreed to give in to their demand.

Three people from the Jat community were killed in Sonipat city when security forces opened fire at stone-pelting mobs that blockaded key highways and railway lines, pushing the death toll to 19 late Monday.

Fresh incidents of arson and violence also erupted in several other districts of the state, with protesters setting fire to vehicles, railway stations and a freight train.

On Sunday, the government agreed to present a draft bill in the next session of Haryana assembly to include Jats, a Hindu group considered socially and economically backward, in the quota system for government jobs and admission to educational institutes.

But Jat leaders refused to accept the promise, saying they will not end the agitation, which has spread to neighboring Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh states, unless the government gives a written assurance.

“The BJP government has been bluffing us for so long. This protest will go on and spread to other parts of the country until our demands are met,” Satpal Chaudhary, a senior member of the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, told BenarNews.

He said the protests by Jats, who form 26 percent of the population in Haryana, was a result of state Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s decision to scrap an additional quota in government jobs for the group.

“(Prime Minister Narendra) Modi had assured us in a meeting early last year that his government would cure the defects cited by the Supreme Court and ask the top court to reconsider the matter. It’s been a year, but nothing has been done about it,” he said.

Quota system

On July 22, 2015, the Supreme Court dismissed a review petition to reconsider its 2014 order removing Jats from the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, which has a 27 percent quota for government jobs and educational institutes.

According to the current quota system, 15 percent of seats in government jobs and colleges are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and 7.5 percent for Scheduled Tribes (ST), besides 27 percent for OBCs and 3 percent for people with disabilities, totaling 52.5 percent.

Although the Supreme Court has capped the caste-based quota at 50 percent, several states exceed this limit and are under litigation before the apex court.

The scheme of caste-based reservations in Indian educational institutions, government jobs and promotions was implemented in 1990 following recommendation from the Mandal Commission, which was appointed by the government to assess the situation of socially and educationally disadvantaged groups.

Massive losses

The unprecedented violence in Haryana has forced the government to impose curfew in eight worst-affected districts of the state, with shoot-at-sight orders in many places.

As many as 47 teams from the paramilitary force, along with the army and police, have been deployed in the state.

More than 100 people have been arrested for allegedly instigating violence that has injured more than 250 people.

“We are trying to bring the situation under control. Several security teams are working on the ground to control mobs and apprehend nuisance makers,” Saurabh Singh, superintendent of Police in Rohtak district, told BenarNews.

Nearly 1,000 trains running through Haryana have been canceled over the nine days of protest, creating havoc for commuters.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce in India claimed property losses of Rs 20,000 crore (nearly $3 billion U.S.) caused by the protests.

In what is being described as the worst violence to hit Haryana, protesters on Saturday set ablaze Haryana Finance Minister Abhimanyu Sindhu’s house.

“This is certainly not the way you press for your demands. There is no milk at the booths here and petrol pumps have become dry. We cannot move around anywhere,” Ashok Singh, a resident of Bhiwani, told BenarNews.

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