Haryana Jat agitation: Parkash Singh panel blasts administration, police

Chandigarh, May 31 (IANS) The Parkash Singh Committee report on the large-scale violence during the Jat agitation for reservation in February, has blasted the civil and police administration, particularly senior officers, for abandoning their authority which it said led to the agitation paralysing the state for days.

Damning observations have been made by the committee against officers and officials of the Haryana government and Haryana Police while highlighting the “complete failure” of the state machinery in reacting appropriately to the situation turning out of control.

The committee, headed by former Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police (DGP) Parkash Singh, which submitted its report to Haryana’s Bharatiya Janata Party government earlier this month, did not mince words to point out to particular officers and even name some of them.

“One Inspector General suffered almost a nervous breakdown and suffered delusions. The government has to be very careful in posting officers to sensitive districts which have potential for trouble of any kind,” the committee pointed out.

“The Committee was disappointed to find that even at the state level, the highest functionaries were almost paralysed, and the kind of guidance, direction and control one expected in such a situation was just not there. The Director General of Police remained confined to Chandigarh and was content with issuing some orders. He did not lead from the front and did not care to inspire or motivate the personnel in the field,” the report pointed out.

“The Home Department was a washout. The Additional Chief Secretary (Home) could not produce before the Committee even one page of directions/instructions which he may have issued to the Deputy Commissioners or the Superintendents of Police. The Home Department remained dormant. No wonder, officers in the field felt leaderless,” it stated.

The committee named the then Additional Chief Secretary (Home) P.K. Das and DGP Yash Pal Singhal for virtually abdicating authority and not leading from the front.

“Yash Pal Singal, Director General of Police, Haryana, said that he was not able to visit the districts during the riots due to his poor health those days. The DGP found time to visit the places affected by violence on 23 and 24 February. It would have been better if he had visited by chopper at least the districts worst affected while the agitation was at its peak.”

“The Committee was also disappointed that the DGP did not even have video conference with the Superintendents of Police when they were battling a very critical law and order situation. A police chief is expected to lead from the front in a crisis situation. Sh. Yash Pal Singal unfortunately did not give that impression,” the report stated.

Pointing out instances, the committee said: “The judicial officers in Rohtak and Jajjhar were scared of their lives. At Jajjhar, the IG Police ordered LMG (light machine gun) to be mounted in the colony to inspire confidence. The IGP Rohtak was so unnerved that he made elaborate arrangements for his own protection, forgetting his responsibility towards the people of the town.”

“The Deputy Commissioner, Rohtak, was apprehensive that his own house may be attacked. The state — in Rohtak at least — appeared to have withered away on February 19 and 20,” the report said.

Rohtak was worst affected during the violence by Jat community agitators.

“Thirty lives were lost and, on a conservative estimate, property worth Rs 20,000 crore was devastated. It is estimated that 1,196 shops were set ablaze, 371 vehicles were damaged or set on fire, 30 schools/colleges were burnt, 75 houses were set on fire, 53 hotels/marriage palaces were devastated, 23 petrol pumps were attacked and 15 religious institutions vandalised,” the committee, which went around the affected districts, pointed out.

The committee clearly pointed out to the caste bias of civil and police officers in the state, which is dominated by Jats.

“The caste bias of the officers, both of the civil administration and the police, was seen inaction against rioters, connivance with the vandals, absence from duty/desertion and abetment of the hooligans. The bias was conspicuous at the level of SDM/DSP/SHOs.”

“The reservation riots which convulsed the state of Haryana in February 2016 were unprecedented in their scale, dimensions and intensity,” the committee stated.

Pointing out to the environmental damage during the agitation, the committee said that a total 7,232 trees were cut by the agitators to block the roads and disrupt movement of traffic. Police establishments were not spared, with 29 police station/post buildings set ablaze, and police weapons were looted.

“The Committee saw the video footage of riots at different places sent by members of the public. There are horrifying scenes of wanton destruction. You can see people coming in scores on trolleys and moving through market areas unchallenged.”

“Prohibitory orders were in force but there are no policemen to intercept the marauding crowds. The youth walk into the stores or malls, loot property at will and destroy whatever they cannot carry. These gangs are in no hurry. They have all the time in the world to carry out their depredations. They know that the police would not check them, let alone arrest them or take any other action,” it pointed out.

The committee regretted that even the property of Haryana’s finance minister was vandalised on two consecutive days.

The committee pointed out that the authority of senior officers, including the chief secretary, had been eroded in Haryana over the years owing to politicization of civil and police administration.

“Army was utilised in a big way in Haryana. There were a maximum of 74 columns on a particular day. The presence of army did make an impact. The situation was thereafter gradually brought under control. However, there have been disturbing whispers that the rioters were not particularly scared of the army,” the committee said.

“The Additional Chief Secretary (Home) of the State had no hesitation in saying that the agitators were not daunted by the presence of the Army’. This is not a happy situation and should cause us concern. One reason could be that the Army is getting over-exposed,” the committee said.

Expressing its concern over the “disturbing polarization in Haryana society”, the committee said that the agitation had left the Jats on one side and the remaining communities on the other.

“The kind of polarization which earlier one saw between the Hindus and Muslims is today, tragically, being witnessed among different Hindu communities, thanks to the conflicting claims over reservation,” the report pointed out.

–IANS

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