A fact-finding committee into the Jat agitation for reservations has revealed that a section of the Haryana police force played truant as the protesters committed arson and wreaked havoc in many parts of the state, a report in The Indian Express has claimed.
The number of such deserters – predictably from the Jat community – ran into hundreds, it quoted sources as saying, adding that most cases of the kind occurred in the worst-affected Jhajjar and Rohtak districts.
A series of violent agitations by the Jat community shook parts of North India in February when protesters, who were seeking inclusion in the Other Backward Caste category, resorted to pillaging, arson and possible gang-rape. The movement, which started in Haryana, soon spread to parts of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and the National Capital Region.
The panel, led by retired IPS officer and Padma Shri recipient Prakash Singh, found that as many as 60-70 policemen deserted their posts in each district affected by the Jat agitation. These desertions were one of the primary reasons for the state government seeking the help of paramilitary forces and the Army, the report cited senior officials as saying.
The Prakash Singh Committee, also comprising additional chief secretary Vijai Vardhan and Haryana DGP KP Singh, has reportedly prepared a list of such deserters – complete with details such as names, ranks, belt numbers and the number of days spent away from their posts.
The panel, which is in the process of concluding its report, is likely to recommend strict action against the offending police personnel. Notably, neither the state government nor the police department has initiated penal action against a majority of them.
The panel, during the course of its investigation, examined more than 3,000 witnesses and included their testimonies in the report – likely to run into 350 to 400 pages.
A number of deputy superintendents of police reportedly told the panel that the constabulary refused to obey their orders and openly showed solidarity with the protesters. A number of victims also attested to the fact that police personnel from the Jat community did little more than stand by and watch as the agitators attacked their cars, homes and commercial establishments.
The panel found that after staying away for six to seven days, the truant policemen simply resumed work at their places of posting after the movement came to an end – pretending as if nothing had happened. The probe panel is likely to recommend action against them, which may result in their dismissal.
The panel also found fault with then deputy general of police YP Singhal, who allegedly refrained from touring any of the affected areas during the agitation. Singhal only accompanied chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar to Rohtak after the Jats called off the movement, the report said.