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After violence, Rohtak a bitterly divided Haryana town
Thursday February 25, 2016 11:57 PM, Mudita Girotra, IANS

Rohtak (Haryana): The arson and fury of Jat protests may be over but the orgy of violence has left behind deep scars that residents of Rohtak town say are unlikely to go away for a long, long time.

After days of turmoil, Rohtak - like many other places in the state - is a town now visibly divided between Jats, who took to the streets seeking job quotas, and non-Jats who bore the brunt of their anger.

Both young and elderly Rohtak residents are furious that a town widely seen as Haryana's political capital has been left looking like a war zone after nine days of unrest that virtually crippled Haryana.

Non-Jats, who until the other day counted Jats as friends and vice-versa, now complain that inter-community relations are badly strained - and might never be the same again.

"Burning our city was an act of insanity," college student Anmol told IANS. "I can't forgive the people who did this. Burning schools and shops and looting them show their mental status.

"They have lost all respect in my eyes," said the 22-year-old, reflecting what seems to be a widely held view among non-Jats.

Although Jats are in majority in Rohtak district, the town is also home to tens of thousands of Punjabis, Banias, Sainis, Brahmins and Yadavs. Until now, caste differences never led to such acute conflict.

But as Jats went reportedly on a destruction spree with the Jat-dominated police merely watching, virtually everything came under attack, leaving behind burnt or destroyed schools, hotels, eateries, businesses, showrooms, shops as well as numerous vehicles, almost all belonging to non-Jats.

Lawyer Brijesh Vashisht told IANS: "There is now hatred among different communities which until now peacefully coexisted. People are not comfortable talking to people from other communities."

Sumit Kathuria, who belongs to Rohtak but works in Gurgaon, is also bitter.

"It was never about reservation. All that the goons wanted was destruction and loot," Kathuria said. "They were no less than terrorists."

He feels the Jats were uncomfortable with Manohar Lal Khattar, a Punjabi and Haryana's second non-Jat chief minister. He is upset over Khattar's failure to contain the mayhem and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence.

"Earlier we were all united no matter what caste we belonged to," Kathuria said. "Everything has changed after the Jat agitation."

The Jat protests across Haryana, which crippled road and rail traffic in much of northern India and also caused a water crisis in Delhi, left 28 people dead and over 200 injured.

Officials are not giving a caste break-up of the fatalities but most people say that while Jats died in firing by security forces, the non-Jat fatalities were to be blamed on Jats.

Residents say Rohtak's image as a business and educational hub has been rudely shattered. Located 70 km northwest of Delhi, it is Haryana's sixth most populous town with 84 percent literacy rate.

Virender Phogat, a senior journalist and a Jat, admitted to IANS that "socially and politically the divisions in Haryana will last and political parties will take advantage of it. The society will suffer".

He said people would blame the Jats for what had happened. "There is now low trust and discomfort. There are also going to be psychological problems."

Another Jat who did not want to be named said Jats who live in areas populated mainly by non-Jats were apprehensive of a possible backlash.

The government's decision to give compensation to those who died in the agitation has also angered non-Jats, who are pressing for compensation for the widespread losses they had incurred.

Rohtak resident Priyanka Kaushik said no businessman would want to and live in Rohtak any more.

"All of us now see a gap between Jats and others. Unintentionally, I have started hating the entire community even though I know not every Jat took part in the agitation," she said.

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