Former IPS officer Prakash Singh, who headed the three-member probe panel constituted to find commissions and omissions on part of police and administrative officers/officials during three-day long arson that rocked Haryana in February during Jat reservation agitation, spoke with Sanjeev Verma. Prakash Singh mentioned that he was shocked to find gross lapses on part of the officers/ officials, policemen who deserted their posts and ran away from scene of crime. After completing his probe in a record 71 days, Prakash Singh even suggests that the role of Army should also be questioned and probed.
What do you have to say about police who deserted their posts from the scene of agitation?
It was shameful for me to learn that police ran away from the scene of crime. Even after imposition of Section 144 and curfew, perpetrators of crime were moving freely. When the police did not even reach the house of serving Finance Minister that was burning, what do you expect their reaction would be to the call of general public. I was shocked to find how some officers could be so negligent. They don’t deserve to be part of he police force and should be dismissed under Article 311 of the Constitution of India.
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Do you mean to say that the police behaved like cowards?
Don’t call them cowards. May be they did not want to get into confrontations. Haryana has the toughest human beings in the country. If fair recruitment is done without political interference, proper training is imparted and able leadership is provided, they can even fight in Afghanistan.
What explanation did the police officers give you in their defense?
Officers said that they were in a dilemma, whether or not to use force. Some said that if they used force and the situation aggravated, the state would not have stood behind them. For instance, even in 2010 a Superintendent of police rank officer, Subhash Yadav had to face murder charge and was suspended for opening fire during an agitation that was turning violent. However, later the allegations against him were set aside.
How do you see role of Army during agitation?
It was in the presence of Army that everything went on. Explanation should also be called from the Army. Police ko Bhagte hue dekha hoga but Army ko nahi dekha hoga. (you would have seen cops running away, but wouldn’t have ever seen army running away). However, I feel that Army should not have been called for internal security.
During your probe, did you find any trace of political interference?
To the best of my knowledge there was no political interference. However, it was not the mandate of our committee and is being looked into by Justice SN Jha Commission. It would be best if you ask him later about this once he concludes his probe.
Do you think the government will take action against guilty officers?
I am sure that the Chief Minister will take action on the report. I don’t think there shall be any pressure on the government not to take action against any particular officer.
Did the committee receive any complaints of molestation or rape in any of the eight districts?
We received minor complaints of eve-teasing but not any serious complaint. But the fact is, very few women came forward to meet the committee members when we toured the affected districts. For instance, if 400 men came forward and met the committee members, in proportion to that there were only 3-4 women who met us and gave their statements about what all happened during the arson. These women were also primarily from various NGOs or social organisations.
How were you able to complete inquiry within 71 days?
My advantage was that the inquiry was not under the Commissions of Inquiry Act. Otherwise it involves lots of procedural complexities and thus takes lots of time.