The one-man Prakash Singh committee, which on May 13 submitted its probe report on the acts of omission and commission of civil and police officers during Jat quota stir, has come down heavily on officers for their caste bias. The committee has also pointed out great hesitation towards using force at the district level and erosion of authority of established institutions.
The committee has indicted 90 officials, including IAS and IPS officers for mala fide and deliberate negligence. About 30% officials indicted were from Rohtak, the worst-affected district during the quota violence. The state government later suspended three Haryana civil service and 10 Haryana Police Service officials besides several inspector and sub-inspector rank officials.
“The caste bias of civil and police officers was seen in form of inaction against rioters, connivance with vandals, absence from duty or desertion, and abetment of hooligans. The bias was conspicuous at the level of subdivisional magistrate, deputy superintendent of police and station house officer. Many of them could have used the available forces to contain the disturbances, but they turned a Nelson’s eye to violence,” said the probe report submitted by the retired IPS officer. “It was distressing to see even some district officers affected by this virus. The administration could not have been more inept, police could not have been more derelict and collusive,’’ it added.
The committee said officers in the field felt leaderless and the only smart move from headquarters was the deployment of senior IAS and IPS officers to certain districts.
FORMER CMS BLAMED
The report has blamed former Haryana chief ministers for eroding the authority of certain institutions to concentrate powers in their own office. “The office of the chief secretary does not command the power or enjoy prestige as it does in many states. The home department also plays a somewhat subsidiary role in matters relating to law and order. These distortions need to be corrected if we do not wish to see a similar administrative paralysis in the event of a major challenge to law and order situation,’’ the report said.
The report pointed out disturbing polarisation in Haryana. “It is painful to record this. But today you have Jats on one side and the remaining communities on the other. These other communities have been giving calls for the unity of “35 biradaris” (excluding the Jats),’’ the report said.
Referring to BJP MP from Kurukshetra, Rajkumar Saini, the panel said one MP has been particularly vocal in this regard and making divisive speeches. No wonder, there were vitriolic rejoinders. The overall consequence of such exchanges has been to sharpen the divide among the communities. The kind of polarisation 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.
HESITATION TO ACT
The report said there was a general impression that if force is used, it may prove counterproductive in the sense that the situation may become worse. Secondly, the action may not be defended by the state government. Officers over the years have become used to disputes being resolved at the eleventh hour by politicians. Besides, the use of force was frowned upon by the establishment.
Rs 20,000-CR PROPERTY DESTROYED
The committee said that on a conservative estimate, property worth Rs 20,000 crore was devastated in the violence. There was a loss of 30 lives. It is estimated that 1,196 shops were set ablaze, 371 vehicles were damaged or set on fire, 30 schools and colleges were burnt, 75 houses were set afire, 53 hotels and marriage palaces were devastated, 23 petrol pumps were attacked and 15 religious institutions vandalised. A total 7,232 trees were cut by agitators to block roads. About 29 police station and posts were set ablaze and police weapons were looted.
OFFICERS’ MOTTO: SAVE YOURSELF FIRST
The report makes cutting remarks at then Rohtak inspector general of police and deputy commissioner saying that the IG was so unnerved that he made elaborate arrangements for his own protection, forgetting his responsibility towards people. The deputy commissioner 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.
EROSION OF AUTHORITY
The report said that civil administration and police machinery cut a very sorry figure during the agitation. Such a crisis happened not because officers were totally incompetent but as climax to years and decades of politicisation and the resultant erosion in the authority of established institutions.
The bureaucracy had lost its elan and the police forgotten it is the strong arm of the state and is expected to use appropriate force when the authority of the state is challenged.
Officers have started looking up to the political masters for directions even when law has given them specific powers and authority.
There was institutional decay, leading to loss of initiative and officers playing safe most of the time. It is necessary that the decline is not only arrested but reversed.