The ongoing Jat quota agitation in Haryana took a violent turn on Friday as three protesters were reportedly killed in clashes with security personnel — police confirmed that at least one person was killed in firing by BSF personnel.
By evening, shoot-at-sight orders were issued in Rohtak and Bhiwani and curfew was imposed in both these districts as well as Jhajjar. The army was called in and Section 144 was imposed in at least six districts of the state.
The Centre rushed paramilitary forces as rampaging mobs held some policemen captive and set ablaze the house of Haryana Finance Minister Capt Abhimanyu, BJP MLA Maneesh Grover’s office and several government and private properties in Rohtak, Jhajjar, Hansi and several other parts of the state.
Over 70 vehicles were torched in Rohtak and Bhiwani. Late in the evening, there were reports that a few protesters had looted a private “gunhouse” in Rohtak and decamped with arms and ammunition. Violent clashes were also seen in parts of Jind, Hisar, Karnal, Kaithal, Panipat and Sonepat. Despite mobile internet and SMS services being blocked since early on Friday morning, armed protesters went on a rampage as word spread about “many casualties”. Two of the dead have been identified as Ajay, 20, of Gaddi Kheri village, and Harinder, 22, of Dhanana village in Rohtak, The third victim is yet to be identified. Over 20 people, both protesters and security personnel, have been injured — at least two are reported to be critical. “One person lost his life as the BSF personnel returned fire after an unidentified person in the mob fired from his countrymade pistol, hitting a BSF constable in Rohtak,” said Haryana DGP Yash Pal Singal.
“In another incident, the mob attacked a DSP and police personnel at the gate of the Maharshi Dayanand University in Rohtak, and took them hostage. The mob also damaged the DIG’s vehicle. They set fire to Finance Minister Capt Abhimanyu’s house in Rohtak, and vandalised it,” he said. In Delhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar met in the evening to take stock of the situation.
A decision was taken to put additional central forces on standby. “Requisition was sent to the union government to send Army to handle the situation in the districts of Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonepat, Panipat, Bhiwani, Jind, Hisar and Kaithal,” said Singal. The state government has also asked for 30 companies of paramilitary forces.
The state government has issued orders for blocking all social networking sites. “As and when the situation improves, these will be restored,” said the DGP. Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had called an all-party meeting in Chandigarh to discuss the Jats’ demand for inclusion in the Other Backward Castes (OBC) category. After the hour-long meeting, leaders of all political parties issued appeals asking protesters to maintain peace and harmony. But the appeals failed to pacify the protesters.