Reservations debate

As Jats plan siege on Delhi to demand reservations, the city prepares for a lockdown

In an unprecedented move, movement in Delhi will be heavily restricted to prevent agitators from surrounding Parliament.

The post-Aurangzeb Mughal twilight saw the capital city of Delhi come under attack from various quarters. One of the more destructive assaults was led by Jat chieftan Suraj Mal in 1752 and was referred to in contemporary Persian and Urdu sources as Jat-gardi – the Jat anarchy.

The proximity of the Jats to the capital of Delhi has meant that this relationship has frequently been characterised by friction. This history will serve as a backdrop on Monday, as the All-India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti attempts to surround Parliament to press home its demand for reservations in government jobs and educational institutions. To prevent this, Delhi is preparing for a lockdown, blocking routes that the Jats might use to enter Delhi from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and deploying large numbers of police and paramilitary personnel to combat any violence that might break out.

City under siege

The Jat demand for reservation has earlier led to violence with mobs rioting across Haryana in February 2016. The Jat riots killed 30 people and injured over 200 as property worth hundred of crores of rupees was destroyed. Rampaging through Harayana, Jats even managed to block a major canal supplying water to Delhi till the Indian Army had to clear them out. Allegations of mass rape were made against the rioters as well.

Given the mass violence last year, the Delhi administration is taking no chances. From late night on Sunday, the city will undergo a virtual lockdown to prevent the protestors from making good on their threat to gherao Parliament.

The Delhi Metro will run only within city limits and not run to the suburbs of Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Noida. Moreover, entry and exit to metro stations in central Delhi, surrounding Parliament, will be barred.

Pulling up the drawbridge

The Delhi administration has also tried to stop the Jat agitators from driving up to Parliament. Major arterial roads within central Delhi have been shut off. Tractors have been banned from being driven in Delhi, reports PTI.

To prevent any gathering of protestors anywhere in the city, the Delhi Police has imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure across Delhi, which outlaws a gathering of five or more people. Moreover, entry into Lutyen’s Delhi will be heavily regulated, reports PTI. Only bona fide residents, office workers and emergency vehicles will be allowed in. The Delhi Police will ask people to furnish proof of intent for people trying to enter the Lutyen’s zone.

To control any violence that might break out, more than 30,000 Delhi Police personal and 110 companies of paramilitary forces would be deployed within Delhi and at its borders, reports the Hindustan Times.

Powerful constituency

The political and economic clout of the Jats means that the February 2016 rioting was treated with kid gloves by the Haryana state government. In full-page ads across newspaper on Sunday, the Haryana government has listed the steps it has taken to enhance Jat welfare. This includes the passing of the Jat Reservation bill by the Haryana Assembly in March 2016 (since stayed by the Supreme Court), compensation to rioters injured in the February 2016 violence and government jobs for the families of those Jats who were shot dead by the police. The Haryana administration has also promised inquiries against those “government officials whose role [in February 2016] was not right”.

The political clout of Jats and their close physical proximity to New Delhi means the strategy of besieging the capital in order to force the powers that be to accede to their demands is an old one. In 1988, Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh Mahendra Singh Tikait brought tens of thousands of farmers to squat along Rajpath in the heart of Lutyen’s Delhi. In the end, the Rajiv Gandhi-led Union government had to accede to his demands that included the raising of the minimum support price for sugarcane.

The Modi government, though, it seems is keen on not undergoing the embarrassment Rajiv Gandhi went though, by trying to prevent Jats from reaching Delhi in the first place.

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