Entering Haryana after crossing the Delhi border, the first thing one gets to see are men in blue camouflages and khakhi uniform — armed personnel from the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Haryana state police respectively guarding the highway, while marching from one end to other.
Next destination on the National Highway is Rai Chowk – a prominent spot in Sonipat — from where Munak Canal, the lifeline of Delhi is just 15 km away. Taking lessons from the last Jat agitation in February, when the canal was severely damaged by the agitators and the national capital was deprived of water for three days, the government this time has ensured a foolproof security cover.
Rai Chowk that leads to a local market — Beeswa Meel (20th Mile) market is guarded by RAF’s ‘Bravo 104’ battalion from Aligarh along with the Haryana police. Despite imposition of Section 144 banning large gatherings, the administration has allowed the citizens to move around freely.
“Last time right ahead of Rai chowk, the agitators went on a rampage. This time there is heavy security and there is complete peace in the market place. It’s important to protect this area because the road passing through the market leads to Munak canal, which was damaged by the rioters in February. In the last two days, no one has dared to stage any agitation here,” said Deepak, a general stores owner.
The canal adjoining Garhi Bala village on any other day is as normal as any canal in the country, but it has now virtually turned into a fortress. Amid an eerie silence and a scorching overhead sun, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security Force (BSF) personnel could be seen guarding the canal. The location has turned into a base camp of paramilitary forces, with riot control vehicles parked by the side of the road that leads to the main canal and barrage. At every interval from Rai Chowk up to the canal, small contingents are on a vigil, while communicating on wireless sets with their colleagues in other parts of the district.
“The companies of Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF) comprising CRPF, BSF and RAF have been deployed in the area to guard the canal and the adjoining roads and villages. We’re working round-the-clock in three shifts and a strong message has been sent to the agitators not to create any disturbance and maintain peace on the very first day of the 15-day agitation programme on Sunday. The government has issued orders to strictly deal with agitators, if they try to create any kind of disturbance here,” a senior CPMF official told Firstpost.
Munak Canal, which supplies water to Delhi, meets 60% of the total water requirement of the national capital. Seven battalions of CPMF have been deployed to protect the canal and water supply system from agitators. During the last agitation in February, the Jat agitators caused heavy damage to this canal, which disrupted water supply in Delhi and due to the closure of plants, the water supply to West, North-West, Central, South and part of North Delhi were severely affected. It was only after 600 CRPF personnel and two columns of the Army took control over the Munak canal that normal water supply could be restored.
“Initially we couldn’t make out the damage caused to the canal by the rioters. But, gradually when the entire water started flowing into the adjoining field and houses, did we realize the proportion of the destruction. This time due to the presence of security forces no one even has dared to raise a voice. Last time, the agitators could damage the canal as there was no security here and they got a free hand. It’s absolutely peaceful here,” remarked Balraj, a sugarcane vendor from Garhi Bala village.
The three blasts inside a rail coach and buses within a month in Haryana, have also compelled the state government to beef up the security. Unlike in February, both the civil administration and police are in no mood to compromise on security arrangement, especially when the second phase of Jat agitation has begun.
Sonipat witnessed disturbance and enough destruction during the last agitation. But, this time due to massive security cover provided by the Centre by deploying 55 companies of paramilitary forces and the state administration giving a free hand to the police to deal firmly with the agitators, no one, either in the city or village, was found to be openly supporting the Jat quota agitators. After talking to people, it became clear that they have been made to understand that no nonsense would be tolerated.
“Unlike in February, this time there’s complete peace in our village and neighbourhood. Whatever issue it is, the court will decide. We are neither a party to it nor supporting any demonstration. I’ve communicated to the people of this village to maintain peace and law and order,” said Rajrani Singh, head (Pradhan) of Chatoura Bahadurpur village panchayat.
“Last time, Sonipat district had witnessed enough destruction, but this time due to the presence of forces, people are feeling safe. The administration has issued strict orders asking people to desist from participating in any kind of agitation,” added Arjan Singh, a local farmer.
A 15 km drive from Rai Chowk takes one to Murthal on NH-1 that had witnessed violence and rampage during the first phase of Jat agitation. The highway was blocked, vehicles were damaged and destruction was caused to prominent locations like the popular highway motel Amrik Sukhdev and ‘Jurasik Park fun resort’. While these properties are undergoing repairs, business is back on track.
Though not ready to talk much about the previous incidence, the villagers of Ladosoli in Murthal are visibly “grateful to the administration” for providing security, unlike in the past. Ladosoli had been a witness to rampage.
However, people across Sonipat, Murthal, Kondli and Sindhu border are still apprehensive about the agitation.
“Last time, we had to shut our business for four days. This time it’s peaceful, but nothing can be said about the agitators. In February, the agitators suddenly went violent only towards the end. There’s uncertainty and fear among people,” Pratap Dahiya, a shopkeeper at Murthal said.