Bhupendra Kumar, 26, who belongs to the Jat Community from Bijnore, UP, had competed for centralised banking exams in 2014, and claimed that even after getting 68 per cent marks he was not selected. Since then he has been working in the fields and every time he remembers the incident of his selection, he wished there was was some reservation for his community. Punjab Singh, a Jat from Kaithal in Haryana, who owns six acres of land, says that the money that comes from agriculture is not much for the entire family. His two sons have private jobs — a fact that Singh is not very happy about. He believes that with changing landholding pattern and jobs, reservation at jobs and in education institutions is imperative for the younger generation of his community.
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Singh and Kumar joined at least six thousand others on Thursday at Jantar Mantar to demand quota in jobs and educational institutions. Under the banner of Akhil Bhartiya Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, leaders of the jat community threatened to block major national highways and cut essential supplies if their demands were not met.
President of the Samiti, Yashpal Malik, said that starting March 20, they will start ‘Delhi Kooch’ wherein Jats from the neighbouring states will march towards Delhi on their tractor and small vehicles, carrying at least 10-day ration.
He added that if the government decided to stop them, then the protesters would sit on the roads blocking the highways, peacefully.
Jats from UP, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, among others, came in huge numbers to support the protest. They smoked hookah, cheered, waved the Indian flag and criticised the BJP-led government for being “insensitive” towards them. Several policemen and personnel from paramilitary were deployed, and barricades were set up at both the entry points of Jantar Mantar.
A senior police officer said that after the protesters marched towards Parliament House at around 3.30 pm, around 3,500 of them were detained and later released. Apart from the reservation under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, Jats are demanding release of those jailed during last year’s stir, withdrawal of cases slapped during the protest and government jobs for the kin of those killed and injured while taking part in the agitation.
As many as 30 people were killed and property worth crores was damaged at many places in Haryana during last year’s stir.