February 22, 2016

Travelers be advised, the water crisis may be short-lived but the Jat protests will likely persist 

In late-February, India experienced extremely violent protests by the Jat community in Haryana State. A nine-day agitation by the group left 16 people dead and more than 150 injured; all of the casualties were described as either protesters or security personnel. In several towns, violence became so severe that authorities declared curfews, with a shoot-on-site order for anyone who defied them.

As the districts where the Jat protests occurred were more rural, the unrest did not have a direct impact on travelers or business operations. However, protesters also blocked major highways and rail lines and damaged a canal, significantly affecting travel and disrupting the water supply to the capital city, Delhi.

As Haryana lies between Delhi and states in northern India, travelers were unable to reach those destinations unless traveling by air; some airlines took advantage of the travel restrictions and quickly increased prices to account for the surge in demand.

Meanwhile, Delhi is projected to experience reduced water supply into March, due to damage to the Munak canal caused by the protesters; the canal provides around three-fifths of the capital’s municipal water.

While the protests in Haryana have subsided after both the federal and state governments vowed to address their concerns, the success of the Jat agitation is likely to prompt similar actions by other groups in the coming weeks.

Jat members in eastern Rajasthan State have already begun blocking roads and rail lines in a bid to obtain similar concessions. Rajput organizations have vowed to launch a strike by the end of February unless their demands are met.

A protest by this group could affect parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh, in addition to Delhi, demonstrating the wide range of some communities. Future protesters may be emboldened by the Jats success in Haryana, and willing to engage in similar violent activities if deemed necessary to push the government to meet their demands.

As specific actions by protesters are unlikely to be announced in advance, travelers could find themselves caught up in violent mobs as they target locations such as malls, markets, and public transit vehicles. Because of this threat, travelers should familiarize themselves with the local issues, monitor for updates on the security environment, and ensure that roads and rail lines are open before attempting travel.

Ongoing demonstrations by various groups in India reveal the need for travelers to remain abreast of local conditions whenever traveling. Violent, highly disruptive actions can break out without warning, threatening those in the vicinity.

Demonstrations in major cities are more likely to be contained and/or dispersed by security personnel; such actions rarely occur near popular tourist destinations and are unlikely to paralyze entire areas. Still, the impromptu nature of some gatherings makes it essential that travelers remain aware of their surroundings and be prepared to depart should conditions deteriorate.


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