CHANDIGARH : Accusing the BJP government in Haryana of hatching a "conspiracy" to weaken their agitation, the Jat community on Friday said they will continue with their protests across the state and will also lay siege to the national capital on March 20.
Talks between top Jat leaders and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, which were scheduled to be held in New Delhi on Friday, could not be held.
Jat leaders accused Khattar and his government of going back on assurances made to the Jat community on Thursday and earlier.
However, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar told media in Chandigarh said that the Jat leaders had backed out of talks which were to be held on Friday.
"It has come to my notice that they want to hold a joint press conference along with me. I have not received any information from the committee of ministers that I had to address such a press conference in Delhi," Khattar claimed, adding that he left for Chandigarh due to prior engagements.
"I am always prepared if the Jat leaders want to have a dialogue with me. Although my schedule for tomorrow is already fixed, but I will be available for meeting with Yashpal Mailk and other Jat leaders on Saturday in Chandigarh or Sonipat or Delhi. My sole purpose is to restore and maintain peaceful atmosphere in the state. The government is keen to move forward with all sections of the society," Khattar maintained.
Jat leader Yashpal Malik told the media in Rohtak town, 70 km from Delhi, that the BJP government had hatched a conspiracy to weaken the Jat agitation by misleading the Jats.
He said Khattar left Delhi on Friday for Chandigarh without meeting the Jat leaders.
The meeting had been announced by the seniormost minister in the Haryana government, Ram Bilas Sharma, in Panipat on Thursday.
"The state government hatched a conspiracy against us and misled the people in order to weaken the agitation. The cancellation of the meeting with the Chief Minister has left us with no alternative but to continue the agitation," Malik said.
The Jat agitation, which began on January 29, completed 48 days on Friday.
The Haryana government on Thursday held talks with Jat leaders in Panipat and claimed that the discussions were "positive".
Haryana Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma, who led the Haryana government panel in the talks, said a final breakthrough was likely to be achieved by Friday.
The Jat leaders were earlier in talks with a five-member panel of senior government officers but the talks had remained inconclusive.
The All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) had earlier announced that the community would intensify its agitation by taking their protest to Delhi on March 20.
The Jat leaders said that they would gherao entry points of Delhi from seven sides and protest at the Parliament complex.
The AIJASS, led by Jat leader Yashpal Malik, has been agitating to press for its demands in Haryana since January 29.
Talks between the state government and the Jat leaders hit a roadblock last month as the Haryana government made it clear that it has no jurisdiction to withdraw cases being investigated by the CBI against some Jat leaders over violence during the agitation last year.
Khattar accused the Jat leaders of changing goalposts.
Their demands include reservation for Jats, jobs to the next of kin of those killed in violence in the Jat agitation last year, compensation to those injured, withdrawal of cases against them and action against the officers, who ordered action against the Jats, among others.
Violence during the agitation last year had left 30 people dead and over 200 injured. Government and private property worth hundreds of crores of rupees was damaged during the violence in February 2016.
Khattar said in Chandigarh that the Jat leaders had backed out of the Friday talks.
"I am always prepared if the Jat leaders want to have a dialogue with me. Although my schedule for tomorrow is already fixed, I will be available for meeting Yashpal Mailk and other Jat leaders tomorrow in Chandigarh or Sonipat or Delhi.
"My sole purpose is to restore and maintain peaceful atmosphere in the state. The government is keen to move forward with all sections of the society," Khattar said.