Jat Agitation: Lawless in Haryana
Between the bully and the boor, the BJP regime in the state has lost its plot
Bhupendra Yadav Bengaluru
Irony and paradoxes fill the politics of India like nowhere else. We waited for more jobs and rapid economic growth. But those bounties didn’t reach us. Instead, the Hindutva forces put barricades in our minds. We were asked to endorse the punishment to Afzal Guru and call Ishrat Jahan names. Followers of these leaders just translated the ideas into action, rampaging mobs examined contents in refrigerators and unidentified criminals shot social activists and writers. From the world power that we are, ‘Mother India’ suddenly became a country of anxious communities.
Haryana is ruled by these Hindutva clones. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is a veteran RSS pracharak close to Narendra Modi. Haryana burst into flames under his watch. Sadly, while Haryana was on the boil, all that BJP leaders did was make statements like “crush the heads of the snakes who raised slogans in JNU”. Shouldn’t Anil Vij, a senior BJP minister, have reached out to the agitators in the first four days when there was no violence? The incompetence of the state government was visible in everything – refusing to take precautions to avert mishaps and handle rioters firmly while finding solutions to the crisis.
The violence in Haryana has left 19 dead, women allegedly raped/ molested, property worth `20,000 crore destroyed and social harmony between communities lost. The context of the trouble relates to fuzzy political principles, the agrarian crisis and the criminalisation of Haryana politics.
Haryana is the showroom of growth and progress since the neo-liberal paradigm of development was adopted in 1991. The Congress ran the state peacefully for a decade within the limitations of neo-liberalism. The neo-liberal State is expected to help an export-led growth model. The economy is expected to be pulling up the animal spirits of competing private corporations. The government is expected to steer the economy like we steer our vehicles and car engines (corporations) push their wheels.
So, if the State is no longer going to row the boat of the economy, why are larger-than-life political icons being created by the BJP? What is the harm in accepting that the services/tertiary sector of the economy is the new engine of growth? Why not accept that, like agriculture and industry, the services/tertiary sector is very highly lopsided? Only 5 per cent of those in this sector have cushy, white-collare jobs. The rest of the sector consists mainly of casual labourers and hawkers.
The second paradox relates to the propaganda that, with the BJP its ‘India first’. Great idea, but who’s practising it? Why are the same rulers gifting away the markets of ‘Mother India’ to global companies? Why has the export-led growth strategy changed to good old import substitution? Why is the government planning a ‘Happening Haryana Global Investors Summit 2016’ from March 7-9, 2016?
Agriculture employs more than half of India’s workforce and around two-thirds of Indians live in rural areas. Haryana, especially, takes pride in being an ‘agriculture first’ province and, like the world over, agriculture is doing badly here. In 2013, a survey by National Sample Survey Organistaion
(NSSO) revealed the skewed distribution of land. It found that 93 per cent of those engaged in agriculture had merely 53 per cent of the land because 7 per cent landlords owned 47 per cent of it.
Agriculture was the focus of the World Bank’s ‘Development Report’ in 2008. Actually, the World Bank had returned to this theme after 25 years because 800 million people were reported to be hungry. The report, inter alia, noted two things relevant to the theme we are discussing. Firstly, it said that food producers were under attack from climate change and market-hungry agro businesses. Secondly, it found that the lives of farmers were degraded by pesticide-driven mono-cropping and the livestock markets.
Agriculture continues to be neglected despite the report because the appeal of more investment in the sector fell on deaf ears. Ostensibly, the regional political parties which espoused the interests of farmers (read kulaks) had become family firms of political entrepreneurs. The leaders of one in Haryana are sitting in jail, sentenced for wrongdoing in the recruitment of school teachers.
Like the Patels in Gujarat, the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, the Gujjars in Rajasthan and so on, several sections of Jats in Haryana now feel desperation in making two ends meet. Incidentally, they have come a full circle from 1990 when they opposed OBC quotas. Is it not ironical that, after 25 years, a dominant caste (with a martial tradition) is now seeking OBC quotas for itself?
Haryana used to be among the most progressive of Indian provinces. All that seems to have changed in the last two weeks. It’s no secret that criminal elements exist in all parties. So sometimes the lawless are incited to violence but, at other times, greed leads people to loot goods. Like in other places, the police force turned its back on rioters and the government of the day was blamed for the violence.
There was anger but there was instigation to violence as well. First, the incitement and conspiracy angle. Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former chief minister, had an aide, Prof Virender. In an audio clip, Virender is heard asking a khap leader to ask the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) supporters to spread the violence from Rohtak to Sirsa. Police have also recovered looted goods from the office of Mandip who runs a finance company in Rohtak. Mandip is the son of the personal security officer of Manish Grover, the BJP MLA from Rohtak.
This criminalisation of the ‘naughty village bully’ was a three-fold political process. In 1982, the bully turned into a boor in Haryana. The bully got a moral cause to misbehave because his leader, Chaudhry Devi Lal, was denied chief ministership even though he claimed to have more MLAs.
Then, from August to October 1990, there was the anti-Mandal agitation. Outside Delhi, it was led by Jats of UP and Haryana. Mahendra Singh Tikait became the face of that movement because no political party could risk losing the large OBC vote by opposing the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations. Buses were burnt and roads blocked in Haryana. The late Hukam Singh, a minor Jat leader handpicked by Devi Lal to succeed his son, Om Prakash Chautala, let all that happen — almost without government interference. The boor was turning more brazen and yet he was still not a criminal.
For 19 months, from July 1, 1996, prohibition was imposed in Haryana by Bansi Lal’s Haryana Vikas Party and the BJP. The Justice JC Verma Commission inquired into its flawed process and harmful impact. The report noted that prohibition resulted in a loss of `450 crore to the government. Secondly, it created new criminals in the shape of illegal carriers of liquor, thus polluting the social fabric. More than 33,000 people, including women and children, were engaged as carriers and many women and children were arrested. It was on record that 7,789 vehicles, including 309 trucks or Canters were captured with huge recoveries of smuggled liquor.
Indeed, if Haryana was ravaged recently, the roots are transparent. And even its time before the state starts healing.