By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, Feb 20 (IANS) Over the past month, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has been marketing Haryana as an ideal and peaceful investment destination across the country and even in China and Japan.
That image of the state has been dented by the violent Jat agitation and its inept handling by the Khattar government — a bleak scenario ahead of the ‘Happening Haryana’ global investors’ summit that gets underway in Gurgaon on March 7.
This is not the first time that Khattar’s inexperience in governance has shown up.
He had become chief minister the first time he was elected a legislator and had never held any position in the government earlier.
The crisis at hand is reminiscent of the violent conflict at the Satlok Ashram of self-styled godman Rampal in November 2014. Six people died and scores of others were injured as the Khattar government reacted slowly to the build up by the godman. The first BJP government in Haryana had, after all, assumed office only on October 26, 2014.
A year hence, the Khattar government is again paying the price for sending conflicting signals as regards a potentially explosive situation.
The government kept assuring the Jat leadership that it supported their demand for reservations despite the Supreme Court quashing the reservation notification for Jats issued by the previous UPA government.
When a section of the Jat leadership blocked a railway track in Mayar village in Hisar district last week, the Khattar government talked them into ending the agitation but did not realise that other sections of Jats, especially the youth, were on the boil.
Jat leaders like Hawa Singh Sangwan and Yashpal Malik, who have spearheaded the Jat agitation for reservation over the years in Haryana, are certainly not in control of the violent turn that the agitation has taken in the past 48 hours.
Mobs of Jat youths have laid siege to Rohtak town and forced the state government to call in the Army, the last fall-back option for civil authorities, in eight districts. The violence has left three people dead and several others injured. Curfew and shoot-at-sight orders have been issued in Rohtak and Bhiwani towns. Incidents of arson and looting have been reported.
Even the house of Haryana’s Finance Minister Abhimanyu was set on fire and government buildings have been damaged by the protestors.
The Khattar government, reacting to the situation only after it got out of hand, has little idea as to who it should talk to in order to contain the spreading violence. The rampaging mobs of Jat youth are leader-less and do not seem to be listening to even senior community leaders.
The Army and para-military forces requisitioned by the Haryana government have not been able to reach the affected areas smoothly.
Instead of doing too many things, the Khattar government needs to put a strategy in place to deal with the present and future situations. The BJP government, which is seen to be dominated by non-Jat leaders, will have to get its act together to ensure that investors do not pull out.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted on Jaideep.firstname.lastname@example.org)