ROHTAK, India (Reuters) - A political ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was shouted down on Tuesday by a crowd angered by rioting in a northern state that destroyed businesses, paralyzed transport and cut water supplies to metropolitan Delhi.
The chief minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar was heckled by local people in the town of Rohtak, northwest of the capital, after they objected to his comments promising that they would receive compensation.
More than a week of unrest involving the Jat rural caste has challenged the authority of Modi, who was elected in 2014 with the largest majority in three decades but has publicly ignored the outburst of anger over a lack of jobs.
Although Jat leaders reached a deal late on Monday to end more than a week of protests that killed 19 people and injured 170, anger was still boiling among the victims whose livelihoods had been ruined.
Live TV pictures showed Khattar giving up his attempt to address angry people on the street. After retreating indoors to give an impromptu news conference, he repeated his promise of compensation only to be shouted down again.
Soon after Modi won national power, Khattar led his nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to power in Haryana, a state of 25 million people, for the first time.
There was a trail of destruction through the town, one of several to be hit by Jat agitation to demand more government jobs and college places, with one Hyundai dealership gutted. Traders who staged an earlier sit-down protest said they had lost everything.
“I had two showrooms on the road; both were first looted and then set on fire. I have nothing left now,” Anil Kumar told Reuters Television.
Kumar appealed to Modi and to chief minister Khattar for compensation: “Are we not humans? Don’t our votes count? Why did they not have any mercy on us? Don’t we pay our taxes?”
Modi has remained silent through the worst social unrest of his 20 months in office. A senior government official said he would give a statement in due course to parliament, which convened for its budget session on Tuesday.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley next week presents his annual budget. He is expected to announce big hikes in public sector pay that would make it hard to free up funds for investment without borrowing more money.
Thousands of troops were deployed to quell the protests, which flared on Monday near Sonipat when a freight train was torched and, according to reports, police shot dead three protesters. Jats also attacked buses in neighboring Rajasthan.
Disruption has been huge, with at least 850 trains canceled, 500 factories closed and business losses estimated at as much as $5 billion by one regional lobby group. India’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki, shut two factories at the weekend because its supply of components was disrupted.
The army on Monday retook control of a canal that supplies three-fifths of the water to Delhi, a metropolis with a population of over 20 million. A key sluice gate was reopened, but protesters sought to cut the water supply at another place.
“The canal was damaged by protesters and repair work will have to be done,” Delhi’s Water Resources Minister Kapil Mishra said. “The water crisis will continue for a few more days.”
Reporting by Rupam Jain and Reuters Television; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Paul Tait and Richard Borsuk