Current events in Haryana have set the state back 20 years. But this is just the beginning. Let's play a game. Let's try figuring out how much further the state can slide. Aditi Phadnis reports.
Around three months ago, station house officers of police stations in at least three districts of Haryana sent messages to Chief Minister M L Khattar's secretariat.
There had been an inexplicable spike in the sale of kerosene. Trees were being felled. Haryana has a high density of agri-implements. Suddenly a lot of trenches were being dug. Something was afoot, they said, and sought directions on what to do next.
There was no answer.
Then the arson began.
The pattern was clear. Properties, shops, showrooms and garages owned by non-Jat communities were attacked with ferocity. Do something, the non-Jats in the government yelled at the chief minister.
The first to threaten to resign was Anil Vij, a minister and an outspoken critic of Khattar.
The second to threaten to leave the government was Women and Child Development Minister Kavita Jain.
Capt Abhimanyu, finance minister and a Jat, was quiet. He was, for the Jats in the bureaucracy, the go-to guy in a government that came to power on the plank of consolidating and empowering non-Jats.
This led to a crisis of leadership in the Jat community.
Only a nincompoop would have been oblivious to the storm clouds that were gathering.
Law and order is a zealously guarded preserve of the state government. And we all know that riots can happen only if the government either allows them to happen or is clueless about how to control them. In this case, the Crime Investigation Department collapsed.
Because the Haryana bureaucracy is dominated by Jats, no one appeared to lift a finger to act.
But the mayhem seemed to have a purpose. So who was orchestrating it and why?
Change in Land Use has been a most lucrative industry in Haryana.
In his tenure, former chief minister B S Hooda cleared around 18,000 acres under CLU and developers threw out farmers, built multi-storey buildings without ascertaining or informing the state government what provisions they had made for water, drainage, power and roads.
The fee for CLU that was deposited with the state government is a minuscule part of what actually used to be paid.
In November 2015, the chickens began coming home to roost.
In a damning indictment of the previous government, the Punjab and Haryana high court set aside the allotment of 202 industrial plots in Rohtak about seven years after they were allotted by the Haryana State Industrial & Infrastructure Development Corporation.
"The entire process was tailor-made to allot plots to applicants as per the whims and fancies of the members of the allotment committee. Reading between the lines and the manner of recording of minutes shows that the allotment of plots was made on a predetermined basis..." the order of the court said.
In December 2015, the Haryana government ordered that a criminal case be registered against Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda) chairman -- Hooda at the time -- ex-IAS officer D P S Nagal and two Huda officials over irregularities in the allotment of industrial plots in Panchkula.
The chief minister asked the Vigilance Bureau to register an FIR and refer the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The transfer of the probe to the CBI after the registration of an FIR meant there would be no preliminary inquiry. Instead, the VB's FIR would be replicated by the CBI to initiate the probe. This fact is important because it puts the inquiry on auto-pilot.
The focus of the allotments was on 14 applicants out of the 582 who got plots in 2012-13.
Among the beneficiaries were Renu Hooda, wife of the former chief minister's nephew Rajinder Hooda; Manjot Kaur, daughter-in-law of then Punjab and Haryana high court judge Justice (retd) M S Sullar; Nandita Hooda, wife of former senior additional advocate general Narender Hooda; Mona Beri, daughter-in-law of B R Beri, former officer on special duty to Hooda; and others.
That was in December, around the time the Jats were getting ready to destabilise Haryana by demanding that jobs be reserved for them.
If the Khattar government had been a little more proactive, it would have anticipated the moves. But consider the way it has reacted. The government has accepted the demands for a quota.
If fresh reservation quotas are announced, Haryana would be violating the 50 per cent ceiling on reservations set by the Supreme Court.
So if -- as announced by the government -- Jat reservation is accepted in the coming session of the Assembly, it can only be carved out of the existing reservations for Yadavs and Sainis.
Little wonder then, that those two communities are now getting vocal and criticising the government.
Current events in Haryana have set the state back 20 years. But this is just the beginning. Let's play a game. Let's try figuring out how much further the state can slide.
Image: Jat community members torched motorcyles during their agitation for reservation in Rohtak. Photograph: PTI photo