NEW DELHI(PTI): Yielding to pressure from agitating Jats, Government tonight announced setting up of a committee under a senior Central minister to examine the quota demand for the community in government jobs even as fresh incidents of arson and violence left two more dead taking the toll in the eight-day long stir to 12.
An announcement by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi on Sunday said that a committee headed by Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu has been formed to look into the demand for reservation in central govt jobs for Jats.
“I would like to make things clear regarding the ongoing protest. Just now, we have formed a committee which will be headed by our senior Cabinet minister Venkaiah Naidu. The committee has been asked to file a comprehensive report to find the soluction of the issue as soon as possible,” he told reporters.
“I appeal to to the people of Haryana to help maintain calm and peace,” he said after a meeting he had with Union ministers Sushma Swaraj and Manohar Parrikar to take stock of the situation in the state.
The meeting came shortly after a delegation of Jats had a meeting with the Home Minister where it was stated that a Bill will be brought in the coming session of Haryana assembly to give OBC status to Jats in the state.
Violence reported despite Centre’s assurances
Even as some fresh incidents of violence were reported, protestors started lifting blockades at some places late in the evening following Centre’s assurances. Late evening reports said that blockades from some national and state highways including Saharanpur-Ambala at Yamunanagar, Paonta Sahib-Yamunanagar, Ambala-Kaithal, Saharanpur-Pipli-Kurukshetra, Zirakpur-Parwanoo and Ladwa-Shahbad were being lifted.
Normalcy was also reported to be returning to some other cities including Kaithal and officials expected that by tomorrow situation would improve considerably following today’s developments in Delhi.
Haryana Home Secretary (HS) P K Das told media on Sunday evening that one person was killed at Akbarpur Barota in Sonipat district near the Munak canal headwork. The second person was killed in clash between two groups (Jats and Non-Jats) at Hansi in Hissar district, Das said. He said that some “Dhabhas” along the Delhi Ambala National Highway near Murthal in Sonipat district were damaged by protestors on Sunday.
Das said in Chandigarh that efforts were on to evacuate women and children stuck due to the blockades at Bahalgarh and Samalkha on the Delhi Ambala NH. He said that there was another clash between two groups at Jhajjar where prompt police action prevented the situation from taking an ugly turn.
Road and Rail traffic remain disrupted
Road and rail traffic continued to remain disrupted due to blockades at a number of places between Panipat and Delhi on Delhi Ambala NH affecting movement of vehicles to various places in North India. The NH is blocked at many places including Bahalgarh and Ganaur.
The Delhi Jaipur NH was blocked near Rewari but police has got it cleared, he said, adding that Delhi-Hissar-Fazilka NH is blocked at Sampla. Das said that Delhi-Ambala and Delhi-Rohtak railway routes remain blocked disrupting movement of traffic on the two routes.
Road and rail traffic remained paralyzed as essential supplies, including fuel, milk and vegetables were severely hit. ATMs were also running out of cash, official sources said. 12 persons have been killed and about 150 injured during the ongoing Jat stir, Haryana DGP Yashpal Singhal said.
According to police sources, four persons injured on Saturday in firing in Jhajjar succumbed to injuries last night. The deceased hailed from Jhajjar, Rohtak, Sonipat, Hissar and Kaithal districts.
Earlier in morning, authorities clamped curfew in Kaithal city in view of the prevailing tension due to protests by Jats and counter demonstrations by non-Jats opposing quotas for them.
Kaithal is the ninth Haryana town where curfew has been imposed after Rohtak, Bhiwani, Jhajjar, Jind, Hisar, Hansi, Sonipat and Gohana town of Sonipat district.
As markets and commercial establishments remained shut in the wake of violent protests by Jats seeking reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, people belonging to non-Jat communities also took out a procession in the city.
The non-Jats chanted slogans in support of OBC leader and BJP MP Raj Kumar Saini, who has irked the quota seekers with his anti-Jat remarks. Jat protestors vandalized a college owned by an MP and a hotel in Sonipat where a rice mill was also set on fire.
A number of buses were set ablaze at Tosham in Bhiwani district. BJP MP Dharambir’s house was also vandalized in Bhiwani. The agitation has hit rail services hard in the northern states, affecting around 1,000 trains with 736 trains cancelled and 105 diverted besides damage to rail property, causing a loss of over Rs 200 Crore to the transporter.
State roadways buses were moved to safer place at Kurukshetra, a report said. A railway station was vandalized at Ganaur in Panipat district. The booking office and Station Master’s room were damaged.
Among other fresh incidents of violence were reported on Sunday in Haryana with Jat protesters in Bhiwani and Sonipat districts setting afire two police chowkis, shops and an ATM even as authorities mounted aerial surveillance in the worst-hit areas and the Army staged flag marches.
Violence was reported in Gohana in Sonipat district; where a mob set on fire several shops, two buses and two motorcycles. In Bhiwani district, protesters late on Saturday night set on fire an ATM of a bank and burnt official records of a cooperative bank in Loharu.
Violence in Hansi on Saturday night prompted authorities to impose night curfew from 8 PM to 6 AM. Police chowkis in Mundal and Kharak in rural areas of Bhiwani were also set on fire. A bus was torched at Tosham in Bhiwani.
Air fares from Chandigarh and Amritsar, both cut off from the national capital by road and rail, have skyrocketed.