Jats in Western Uttar Pradesh defy Modi and Yogi to extend support to farmers

The farmers’ movement has brought Jats of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, already unhappy due to poor representation, to make common cause and come on the same platform

Jats in Western Uttar Pradesh defy Modi and Yogi to extend support to farmers

Tasleem Khan

The ‘Mahapanchayat’ convened by Jat khaps at Baraut, 70 kilometres from Delhi, it had been announced, would begin at 11 am on Sunday. Curious to see the impact of Rakesh Tikait’s tears on the Jats of Uttar Pradesh, we drove to Baraut well in time. But barring a few policemen outside the tehseel compound, there was nothing to suggest a large meeting was going to be convened there.

There were hardly 10 people at the ground at 11 am. Was it a mistake to spend so much time on the road? We ordered tea at a roadside stall and asked the vendor if the rally had flopped before it could begin.

Rakesh, who runs a canteen at the tehseel office, was busy arranging samosas and milk cake. He gave us a smug smile and said, “This is the Jat belt. Wait and watch.” There was little else we could do. So, we waited and Rakesh turned out to be right.

In less than half an hour, slogans of ‘Jai Jawan-Jai Kisan’ rent the air. A few tractors rolled in. One of them pulled in a trolley which was quickly turned into the stage. The UP Government’s hoarding with smiling faces of the Prime Minister and the UP chief minister were covered in no time with banners of farmers’ organisations. In a matter of minutes, tricolours had begun fluttering from every nook and corner of the ground. We walked out of the ground and were amazed to spot rows of tractors upto as far as we could see making a beeline to the ground.

Farmers were arriving in large numbers. Some had walked, others came on trolleys and tractors. Why had they come, we asked many. One of them, Sanjiv Chaudhary, responded with a smirk, “Our womenfolk at home were insistent that we attend the mahapanchayat. We had to come, never mind the distance.” Another farmer dramatically raised both arms and declared that BJP supporters would be ostracised by the community. “Hukkah paani bandh”, he declared to emphasise his point.

If Baraut was an indication, the reports of a Jat upsurge in Western Uttar Pradesh did not appear to be an exaggeration. Panchayats are reportedly being held in every district and feelings are running high. Anti-BJP sentiment is strong and the BJP governments seemed to have been pushed on the backfoot.

The emergence of Rakesh Tikait as the face of the farmers’ movement after January 28 has robbed the government of its publicity plank that the movement is being spearheaded by Sikhs from Punjab and aided by “Khalistanis”. But at Baraut it appeared that attempts to drive a wedge between the Sikhs and the Hindu Jats had not succeeded. In fact, Jats

from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand appeared to have made a common cause on the issue.

According to a CSDS survey, BJP polled 77% Jat votes in Western UP in the 2014 election and 91% in the 2019 election. In Haryana, the survey indicated, BJP had secured only 19% of the Jat votes, the rest having gone to INC and INLD in 2014. But there too in 2019 the BJP vote share among Jats had gone up to 50%.

But the farmers’ movement appears to have brought the Jats of the two states together. They were unhappy with the BJP because of their poor representation in the government. The resentment deepened when Haryana Police attacked farmers with batons, water cannons and tear gas while on their way to Delhi. And with Rakesh Tikait breaking down on camera, it touched an emotional cord that was evident at Baraut mahapanchayat.

It was a mistake to vote for the BJP, said a few. The Jats had been instigated against the Muslims, said others. It is too early to say that a realignment of communities is taking place. But if the mahapanchayats at Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Mathura, Bijnor and Baraut are an indication, for the first time since 2009, Jats, Muslims, Gurjars and Sainis have come on a common platform.

Ironically, Rakesh Tikait and his brother Naresh Tikait were instrumental in extending support to the BJP in Western UP. But the brothers are now publicly saying that they would make amends. Their meeting with Chaudhary Ajit Singh of Rashtriya Lok Dal and his son Jayant ended with Ajit Singh declaring that Jats would no longer fall in the web of divisive politics engineered by the BJP.

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