Jat stir: Haryana remains in grip of violence, toll rises to 10

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Chandigarh, Feb 21: Haryana was on the edge today as fresh incidents of arson and violence shook the state with a ninth town being brought under curfew as the Jat agitation for quota under OBC entered the eighth day so far claiming 10 lives.

The Jat stir also hit Delhi with the Arvind Kejriwal government announcing closure of schools tomorrow as part of water rationing after supply from Haryana was disrupted. The national capital also witnessed big traffic jams in some parts.

Haryana

Ten persons have been killed and about 150 injured during the ongoing Jat stir, Haryana DGP Yashpal Singhal said even as claimed that steps were being taken to restore water supply to Delhi and clear road and rail blockades.

"According to the information we have so far, in the entire state 10 people have been killed and about 150 injured," he said. As the situation turned volatile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh appealed for calm.

"I appeal to all to maintain peace and ensure that there are no untoward incidents," he said.

The Home Minister met a delegation comprising Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, BJP MP and former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh and Haryana Minister Abhimanyu rs to find a way to resolve the situation.

With violent protests by Jats escalating, Haryana Minister Anil Vij today made it clear that talks cannot be held with a "mob" and said Jats should form a committee to hold parleys with the state government.

He said the agitation has become leaderless and "mobocracy" was prevailing. Road and rail traffic through Haryana destined for North India from Delhi side remained disrupted with bus and train services remaining suspended.

In the wake of shooting air fares airlines announced additional flights to Chandigarh and Amritsar today. Curfew was imposed in Kaithal city in the wake of ongoing Jat agitation after tension erupted in the town due to protests by Jats and tussle between Jats and non-Jats.

With this, now Kaithal has become ninth city where curfew has been clamped after Rohtak, Bhiwani, Jhajjar, Jind, Hisar, Hansi, Sonipat and Gohana town of Sonipat district. While several roads have been blocked in Kaithal, protesting Jats have put up a tent in the middle of Hissar- Chandigarh national highway to express their anger for not being included in OBC category.

Markets, shops and commercial establishments remained shut in the wake of violent protest unleashed by agitating Jats.

The protesters are adamant on their main demand of OBC quota in government jobs and rejected Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's announcement of enhancement of the quota of reservation for Economically Backward Classes in the state from 10 to 20 per cent.

As violence and arson spread to several parts of Haryana, the Centre sent additional 1,700 paramilitary personnel to deal with the situation.

The NCMC, headed by Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha, too assured Haryana government that there would be no delay in sending assistance, including central forces.

The Civil Aviation Ministry has asked airlines to operate additional flights from here to Chandigarh, Amritsar and Jaipur to enable stranded people reach their destinations.

As part of this, all major domestic operators including Air India, Jet Airways and IndiGo will fly additional services from and to Delhi, an official statement said.

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.

People belonging to non-Jat community also took out a protest march in the city and raised slogans in favour of OBC leader and BJP MP Raj Kumar Saini who has been facing wrath of Jats for his alleged anti-Jat quota remarks.

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 torched at Tosham in Bhiwani district. BJP MP from Bhiwani Dharambir's house was also attacked and vandalized in Bhiwani.

The quota protests spread to Panchkula district, adjoining Chandigarh with agitating Jats blocking Zirakpur-Shimla highway. About 100-150 protesters also blocked the six lane Zirakpur-Parwanoo National Highway (the highway further leads to Shimla) which is the entry point to popular tourist destination like Shimla and Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh.

The protests have resulted in serpentine queues of vehicles stranded on both sides of the road. Week-end rush on Chandigarh-Shimla highway with a large number of people from Chandigarh, Haryana and Punjab heading for Himachal Pradesh added to the pile up.

"Protesters have blocked old Panchkula road. We are trying to persuade them to lift the blockade," a Panchkula police official said.

The protestors also blocked National Highway at Rewari disrupting traffic. State roadways buses have been moved to safer place at Kurukshetra, a report said.

Due to blockade of rail and road network the supply of essential commodities, including petrol, milk and vegetables, has been disrupted to most of the cities. ATMs have also run out of cash at most places, reports said.

Passengers remain struck at a number of places due to abrupt termination of buses and trains at various places. A railway station was vandalized at Ganuar in Panipat district. The booking office and Station Master's room were damaged.

PTI

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