The normal way participation in a NID proceeds is Rally on Saturday, Vaccination on Sunday, Follow-up visits House to House on Monday. This year was to be very different.
The road from Delhi to Ludhiana (NH1) passes close to Rohtak in Haryana State which is an area lived in by the JAT Caste.
As we drove north along the highway to Ludhiana on Friday and were about 50 kms north of Delhi, we passed a large cavalcade coming in the other direction which occupied 5 lanes of the 6 lane highway. This was the start of the riot and over the weekend, the riot took over the area and the news.
The JATs had decided to riot (aka Protest) because their caste was recently reclassified to a higher level in the Punjab and Haryana (they are still classified as Other BackwardClass in seven states) and because of this they now receive less preferential treatment when it comes to Government job appointments.
The riot took the form of blocking the railway track (the main Delhi - Ludhiana - Amritsar line),
setting fire to cars, buses, buildings etc,
damaging the canal which supplies Delhi with most of its water and
blocking the main highway along which we were driving (the NH1).
The military were sent in and by the time “an agreement to review the reclassification” was reached, 19 were dead.
Because the riots were 200km south of us and in another state, life proceeded as normal in Ludhiana. The difficulty for us was how to get back to Delhi on Monday in time for our fights on Tuesday. Cutting a long story short, we left Ludhiana early on Monday morning without participating in the follow-up because the highway was said to be open and it was felt we should make a run for Delhi whilst the going was good.
This was the planned route - the timings given on the map are derived from Google Map’s very optimistic view of Indian road traffic.
However as we were heading south, at about 11 am the riots started again on the main highway and we had turn off into the hinterland and follow a much longer cross country route back to Delhi.
Although this route took 12½ hours, we drove through some most interesting towns and villages and therefore the next blog entry records the trip back to Delhi rather than Follow-up day.
We were much more fortunate than the group which went to Karnal, a city closer to the riot than we were. They were unable to take part in any Polio activities at all and even though the highway was declared open on Monday, they were trapped in the traffic jams which resulted when the riots started again. Luckily for them, the police cleared the road and they arrived in Delhi some two hours after we did.
The Guardian’s version of the riots is given here and is reasonably accurate although it does not really give a feel for the amount of disruption which occurred. The India News website described the protests in more detail including the phrase 'Reports said NH-1 was blocked by protesters in Sonipat district, 50 km from Delhi, and thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles were stranded” which covered our predicament.