Chandigarh: The situation assessment reports (sitreps) submitted by senior civil and police officers in Haryana to the Prakash Singh Committee that probed the role of officials during the large-scale violence during the Jat agitation for reservations in February has thoroughly exposed authorities at various levels in the administrative hierarchy.
In two districts worst-affected by violence – Rohtak and Jhajjar – the sitreps pointed out that the Rohtak range Inspector General, Shrikant Jadhav, was “very unstable and highly emotional” and was confined to the canal rest house. It was further mentioned that, as Rohtak and its neighbouring districts burnt, the officer “had already left Rohtak for Delhi in an army helicopter”.
The report on the situation in Rohtak was submitted by Principal Secretary A.K. Singh and Director General of Police (DGP) B.S. Sandhu to the Prakash Singh Committee. (Prakash Singh, considered a highly cerebral officer, is a former head of the paramilitary Border Security Force.)
Another report, submitted by Inspector General of Police (IGP) K.K. Rao, who was specially posted to the riot-hit Jhajjar district, stated: “The role of administration, especially DC Anita Yadav, IAS, was not cooperative. She did not appoint the magistrate timely with the police force. She never picked her phone despite giving her several missed calls.”
“The situation deteriorated so much that the agitators were threatening to target the judicial complex and Judicial Magistrates. As a precaution, we had to fit LMGs overnight on their houses’ rooftops. Even after this, the DC did not get out of her house to analyse the situation,” Rao’s report said.
“She has played a very adverse role in the whole agitation. She neither acted like a leader in the situation nor provided good support to the police or the army. She remained confined to her camp office or office during the whole agitation…….. Her control was also very poor over her subordinates and many times they added confusion to the situation,” the report said.
In the case of Jhajjar Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Pankaj Setia, the report said: “He refused to sign the orders for army to take action against the agitators despite the fact that by that time several government property was put on fire by the rioters.”
Rao said that there was “no coordination (among civil and police officers) because of the high-headedness of DC Anita Yadav”.
On her part, Anita Yadav, who was termed by the Prakash Singh Committee as the “most non-performing officer”, dismissed the comments on her action.
“This is a 100 percent wrong report. This is a baseless report and is devoid of facts. Who is Prakash Singh to comment on me? I was selected by the Haryana Public Service Commission and later by the Union Public Service Commission. This report is to save police officials. We were not heard,” Anita Yadav, who appeared before the committee, told the media later.
Even Rao pointed to the unwarranted action of Rohtak range IGP Shrikant Jadhav.
“The situation in Jhajjar was very tense. S.P. Jhajjar was forcefully called to Rohtak by IGP/Rohtak on 19.02.16 with 500 policemen. He returned to Jhajjar with just 60 police personnel at 2.30 am on 20.02.16 as IGP/Rohtak had kept the other 460 police personnel with him.
“The number of agitators was very high – around 3,000-4,000 – and in comparison, the police force was less. But even in that scenario, I felt Jhajjar police performed exceptionally well. SP Jhajjar was very courageous and a brave leader,” Rao said in his report.
That the Haryana government, right from the chief minister’s office down to the local administration, had failed to respond to the near-anarchy engulfing the affected districts was exposed in reports submitted to the committee by other senior officers.
DGP K.K. Sindhu pointed to “lack of inputs from higher levels”, adding: “In fact, during these days no inputs were received regarding unfolding situation in the state. There should be clear cut policy to deal with such situations at the highest political and administration levels.”
“There was great hesitation in using force at the district level. There was a general impression that if they used force, their action may not be defended by the state government,” the probe committee pointed out, highlighting instances where a murder case was registered against IPS officer Subhash Yadav in an earlier incident following pressure from one community.
That the Manohar Lal Khattar government had not applied its mind thoroughly while rushing in senior officers to control the situation could be seen from the report of additional DGP PK Aggarwal, who found himself in unfamiliar territory, leave alone initiating action.
“The undersigned (Aggarwal) has never been posted at Bhiwani in his entire career. Lack of adequate knowledge of the geography, demography & other vital aspects was a constraining factor,” Aggarwal said in his report.
An ADGP, B.K. Sinha, referring to lack of directions from the top, said: “The constabulary was completely unknown and unaware of what will be their response to the agitators. This dilemma led to the ineffective and insufficient use of force on the ground and finally encouraged the agitators to create such large-scale arson at various places.”
The committee said that several Haryana officers had told it “that the oral instructions from Chandigarh were to avoid the use of force”.
The lack of coordination between various agencies became evident in the manner in which the army was requisitioned but its units could not immediately reach trouble-spots due to roadblocks put up by the Jat agitators.
Informal interactions of the Prakash Singh Committee with Brig. Vipul Singhal and Brig. Arun Yadav of the army’s Western Command revealed that the army received directions to move its columns to Rohtak by road from Delhi but they “encountered insurmountable road blocks at Bahadurgarh on their way and could not proceed any further”. The army personnel were then airlifted in helicopters from Hindon air base to Rohtak.
“For three days and three nights, the army conducted flag marches non-stop without sleeping at all,” the army officers pointed out to the committee.
The committee also criticised the caste and community-based recruitment of constabulary in Haryana over the years, leading to the police force being divided.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )