The army on Wednesday claimed that not its personnel but those from the paramilitary Rapid Action Force (RAF) had opened fire in Sonepat, including Larhsoli village, where four people got killed during the Jats’ stir for quota.
Denying media reports about army firing, Col BK Panda, entrusted with the job of securing Sonepat, said that it was the RAF that “compelled to fire”. He also denied the reports of women being ‘violated’ or raped by miscreants.
It was on February 22 that about 1,500 protestors had gathered at Larhsoli on the Sonepat-Delhi leg of National Highway-1 and started pelting the army personnel, police and RAF with stones. “A petrol bomb was thrown at us too... At that time, we were just 100 people along with the RAF and police,” added Maj HS Cheema. An announcement was made that if they did not disperse they would be fired at. “The deputy commissioner was speaking to them and made them sit peacefully. When an army column started marching ahead, they again threw stones and hurled abuses. Country-made pistols were flashed too,” added Maj Cheema. He said that to disperse the crowd the RAF fired, which resulted in the deaths.
“We did not fire a single shot across Sonepat. We followed the policy of maximum restraint and minimum force. The mob had all kinds of elements. At Larhsoli, it was outsiders who threw stones. The dead were soon cremated too,” said Col Panda.
Another flashpoint at Sonepat was close to the popular Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba, where on the night of February 21 a mob vandalised about 20 cars and some families were hiding in the fields. The army reached around 3am and gathered about 40 families, accommodating them at the dhaba. “Later, buses of civil administration came and evacuated them,” Maj Cheema added.
The army officers denied any women making complaints of being molested or raped. “Both the men and women were shocked. But they did not make any such complaints,” said Maj Cheema.
Col Rakesh Kumar, entrusted with the job of securing Panipat, said the force faced stone-pelting during the flag march in Panipat. “Five boys were nabbed and handed over to the police,” he told HT, and added that, during the 36-hour blockade on the Panipat-Delhi highway, near Rajiv Gandhi Khel Parisar, where over 5,000 protestors were sitting, the army found a truckload of stones. The protesters were armed with country-made pistols and swords, he added.
Embankments at Munak canal are still under repairs
RS Punia, sub-divisional officer at Munak Canal in Sonepat, said that supply to Delhi was restored but embankments were still not repaired; these were breached about 40km from Sonepat. The protestors had severed the cables holding up the gates twice, which cut the water supply to Delhi on February 21. They even breached the canal with the help of earthmovers. “By 5pm on February 21, we reached there. Right from the morning, we started receiving frantic calls from the DC. There was a mob of 600 people. They were armed with sharp-edged weapons, earthmovers and firearms. They wanted to catch hold of the Munak waterworks. The people were spread over the entire canal,” said Lt Col Amit Singh, entrusted with the job of securing Karnal. Half an hour past midnight, the civil administration was able to negotiate and got the blockade lifted. At present, 170 soldiers, two officers and seven junior commissioned officers are guarding the canal.