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Muzaffarnagar to Nuh, All's Not Well Between BJP & Jats: 4 Reasons Behind This

Despite appeals from Hindutva outfits, Jat groups refused to take part in the violence in Nuh and Gurugram.

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The recent communal violence in Nuh and Gurugram that killed six people and the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots are separated by exactly ten years.

The two riots also represent two ends of an important political development in North India.

While the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots provided the backdrop for a massive shift of the Jat community of Western UP towards the BJP, the 2023 Haryana violence ended up revealing the souring relations between the community and the BJP.

Several Jat organisations and farm unions dominated by Jats issued appeals to the community, especially the youth, to not get drawn into the violence in Mewat.

Appeals by Hindutva organisations to Jats to 'come to the support of Hindus', went unheeded. The appeals soon became taunts, sparking social media spats between Jats and Hindutva supporters.

Jat leaders from across the political spectrum - from deputy CM Dushyant Chautala, to Opposition leader Deepender Singh Hooda and farm union representative and Jat Mahasabha leader Yudhvir Singh Sehrawat - all spoke against the violence and called out elements within the Hindutva side.

So what changed between 2013 and 2023?

There are four aspects to this.

Muzaffarnagar to Nuh, All's Not Well Between BJP & Jats: 4 Reasons Behind This

  1. 1. The Contradictions in the BJP's Policy Towards Jats

    A lot is to do with the BJP's contradictory strategy towards Jats in Western UP and Haryana.

    In West UP after the Muzaffarnagar riots, the BJP has presented itself as the saviour of Jats. On the other hand, in Haryana, the BJP under Manohar Lal Khattar over the last nine years has pitched itself as the only party that can resist Jat domination and protect the interests of non-Jat communities in the state. This intensified after the 2016 Jat agitation.

    In Haryana, it presents its rivals like the Congress and INLD as being too Jat-dominated. These contradictions could still be reconciled at the national level - for instance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections there was sizable Jat support for the BJP under PM Modi, partly due to the nationalist fervour following the Pulwama attacks and Balakot strike.

    However, in the Vidhan Sabha elections a few months later, there was sizable Jat shift away from the BJP. But Jat votes got split between the Congress, the Jannayak Janata Party and to a lesser extent the INLD. The JJP later formed a post-poll coalition with the BJP

    Expand
  2. 2. Specific Context of Haryana

    Though there are common strands in Jat politics across North India, there are certain aspects specific to Haryana that need to be understood.

    Unlike West UP, it is difficult to mobilse Jats against Muslims in Haryana simply because the demographics are very different. Jat dominated districts in Haryana such as Sonepat, Rohtak, Hisar, Jind and Sirsa have a very low proportion of Muslims and therefore they don't constitute a political threat to the Jat community. This is in contrast to districts like Muzaffarnagar and Shamli in UP, where Jats and Muslims are in sizable numbers.

    Despite appeals from Hindutva outfits, Jat groups refused to take part in the violence in Nuh and Gurugram.

    Members of Bajrang Dal burn an effigy during a protest against the violence in Haryanas Nuh district, at GTB Nagar in New Delhi on Wednesday, 2 August.

    (Photo: PTI)

    The highest concentration of Muslims in Haryana is in the Mewat region, where the proportion of Jats is very low. Of late, the region is seeing increasing assertion of the Yadav community, often through involvement of sections of them in Hindutva outfits.

    Monu Manesar, for instance, is a Yadav and represents a challenge to the older Yadav leadership which had cordial ties with Muslims locally and didn't challenge Jat domination at the state level.

    Sections among Jats see this assertion by Yadavs with concern and consider it an attempt to imitate them.

    Expand
  3. 3. Three Protests

    At the root of the Jats' disaffection against the BJP lie three mass protests - the 2016 Jat reservation protest, the 2020-21 farmers' protest against three agricultural laws and the 2023 wrestlers' protest.

    All three protests had Jats at their centre and were directed against the BJP in some way or the other.

    Despite appeals from Hindutva outfits, Jat groups refused to take part in the violence in Nuh and Gurugram.

    File image: Protesting Wrestlers

    (Photo: PTI)

    From the point of view of the Jat community, the reservation agitation was about the future of Jat youth and getting the community its due. The community's livelihood was at stake in the farmers' protest. And the main theme in the wrestlers' protest was the honour of women belonging to the community.

    For over a decade, there has been a battle of narratives within the Jat community - between those who see the community as tied to agrarian interests and those who see it as part of the larger Hindutva-based solidarities.

    The latter strand became much stronger following the Muzaffarnagar riots but also due to increasing urbanisation and move away from agriculture.

    However, these three movements have once again tilted the scales back in favour of caste-based and agrarian politics.

    When a community or an area goes through three major protests, all directed towards one adversary, it becomes very difficult to come back from that.

    This is most acute in Haryana, due to the BJP's contradictory policy and the perceived lack of representation.

    Expand
  4. 4. Inadequate Representation

    Another factor that is contributing to Jat resentment and preventing a reconciliation with the BJP is inadequate representation.

    There is a perception, partly justified, that Jat representation in positions of power has gone down under the BJP.

    Haryana has a non-Jat CM for the past nine years, the first non-Jat since Bhajan Lal three decades ago.

    There is no Jat in the Union Cabinet presently. There are two ministers of state - Kailash Choudhary and Sanjeev Baliyan, but neither are from Haryana.

    More recently, the BJP announced its committees for the Rajasthan Assembly elections and Jats remain underrepresented in both the lists that were released. Even a senior leader like Satish Poonia is said to have been given a raw deal.

    In contrast, Jats have become more and more influential in the anti-BJP camp.

    In the Congress, the Hoodas enjoy dominance over the Haryana unit and even the anti-Hooda camp has Jat leaders like Randeep Surjewala and Kiran Chaudhary. Even nationally, Surjewala's influence has been rising steadily especially after his success as the in-charge for the Karnataka elections. He is unarguably among the most influential leaders in the Congress.

    Outside the Congress, Jayant Chaudhary and Hanuman Beniwal are both important leaders among the Jats of West UP and Rajasthan respectively and both have been vocal critics of the BJP, especially after the farm laws. Though there are attempts by the BJP to bring them into the NDA fold.

    Then there are people outside electoral politics but have become increasingly influential in articulating the community's concerns, such as farm union leader Rakesh Tikait and former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik.

    Malik in particular has been giving interviews and addressing several public meetings targeting the BJP.

    The signal to the Jat community is clear - that they enjoy more clout and voice in the non-BJP camp.

    The BJP on its part has begun factoring in some erosion in Jat support and is trying to woo smaller caste groups like the Sainis and Bishnois.

    Now, this is not to say that relations between the two sides have reached a point of no return or that Hindutva or nationalism won't have any currency among Jats. But it does seem at present that caste-based grievance and agrarian questions have occupied a more central space within the community.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

The Contradictions in the BJP's Policy Towards Jats

A lot is to do with the BJP's contradictory strategy towards Jats in Western UP and Haryana.

In West UP after the Muzaffarnagar riots, the BJP has presented itself as the saviour of Jats. On the other hand, in Haryana, the BJP under Manohar Lal Khattar over the last nine years has pitched itself as the only party that can resist Jat domination and protect the interests of non-Jat communities in the state. This intensified after the 2016 Jat agitation.

In Haryana, it presents its rivals like the Congress and INLD as being too Jat-dominated. These contradictions could still be reconciled at the national level - for instance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections there was sizable Jat support for the BJP under PM Modi, partly due to the nationalist fervour following the Pulwama attacks and Balakot strike.

However, in the Vidhan Sabha elections a few months later, there was sizable Jat shift away from the BJP. But Jat votes got split between the Congress, the Jannayak Janata Party and to a lesser extent the INLD. The JJP later formed a post-poll coalition with the BJP

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Specific Context of Haryana

Though there are common strands in Jat politics across North India, there are certain aspects specific to Haryana that need to be understood.

Unlike West UP, it is difficult to mobilse Jats against Muslims in Haryana simply because the demographics are very different. Jat dominated districts in Haryana such as Sonepat, Rohtak, Hisar, Jind and Sirsa have a very low proportion of Muslims and therefore they don't constitute a political threat to the Jat community. This is in contrast to districts like Muzaffarnagar and Shamli in UP, where Jats and Muslims are in sizable numbers.

Despite appeals from Hindutva outfits, Jat groups refused to take part in the violence in Nuh and Gurugram.

Members of Bajrang Dal burn an effigy during a protest against the violence in Haryanas Nuh district, at GTB Nagar in New Delhi on Wednesday, 2 August.

(Photo: PTI)

The highest concentration of Muslims in Haryana is in the Mewat region, where the proportion of Jats is very low. Of late, the region is seeing increasing assertion of the Yadav community, often through involvement of sections of them in Hindutva outfits.

Monu Manesar, for instance, is a Yadav and represents a challenge to the older Yadav leadership which had cordial ties with Muslims locally and didn't challenge Jat domination at the state level.

Sections among Jats see this assertion by Yadavs with concern and consider it an attempt to imitate them.

0

Three Protests

At the root of the Jats' disaffection against the BJP lie three mass protests - the 2016 Jat reservation protest, the 2020-21 farmers' protest against three agricultural laws and the 2023 wrestlers' protest.

All three protests had Jats at their centre and were directed against the BJP in some way or the other.

Despite appeals from Hindutva outfits, Jat groups refused to take part in the violence in Nuh and Gurugram.

File image: Protesting Wrestlers

(Photo: PTI)

From the point of view of the Jat community, the reservation agitation was about the future of Jat youth and getting the community its due. The community's livelihood was at stake in the farmers' protest. And the main theme in the wrestlers' protest was the honour of women belonging to the community.

For over a decade, there has been a battle of narratives within the Jat community - between those who see the community as tied to agrarian interests and those who see it as part of the larger Hindutva-based solidarities.

The latter strand became much stronger following the Muzaffarnagar riots but also due to increasing urbanisation and move away from agriculture.

However, these three movements have once again tilted the scales back in favour of caste-based and agrarian politics.

When a community or an area goes through three major protests, all directed towards one adversary, it becomes very difficult to come back from that.

This is most acute in Haryana, due to the BJP's contradictory policy and the perceived lack of representation.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Inadequate Representation

Another factor that is contributing to Jat resentment and preventing a reconciliation with the BJP is inadequate representation.

There is a perception, partly justified, that Jat representation in positions of power has gone down under the BJP.

Haryana has a non-Jat CM for the past nine years, the first non-Jat since Bhajan Lal three decades ago.

There is no Jat in the Union Cabinet presently. There are two ministers of state - Kailash Choudhary and Sanjeev Baliyan, but neither are from Haryana.

More recently, the BJP announced its committees for the Rajasthan Assembly elections and Jats remain underrepresented in both the lists that were released. Even a senior leader like Satish Poonia is said to have been given a raw deal.

In contrast, Jats have become more and more influential in the anti-BJP camp.

In the Congress, the Hoodas enjoy dominance over the Haryana unit and even the anti-Hooda camp has Jat leaders like Randeep Surjewala and Kiran Chaudhary. Even nationally, Surjewala's influence has been rising steadily especially after his success as the in-charge for the Karnataka elections. He is unarguably among the most influential leaders in the Congress.

Outside the Congress, Jayant Chaudhary and Hanuman Beniwal are both important leaders among the Jats of West UP and Rajasthan respectively and both have been vocal critics of the BJP, especially after the farm laws. Though there are attempts by the BJP to bring them into the NDA fold.

Then there are people outside electoral politics but have become increasingly influential in articulating the community's concerns, such as farm union leader Rakesh Tikait and former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik.

Malik in particular has been giving interviews and addressing several public meetings targeting the BJP.

The signal to the Jat community is clear - that they enjoy more clout and voice in the non-BJP camp.

The BJP on its part has begun factoring in some erosion in Jat support and is trying to woo smaller caste groups like the Sainis and Bishnois.

Now, this is not to say that relations between the two sides have reached a point of no return or that Hindutva or nationalism won't have any currency among Jats. But it does seem at present that caste-based grievance and agrarian questions have occupied a more central space within the community.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  BJP   Manohar Lal Khattar   Gurugram 

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