Deployed in Haryana at the request of a panicked state government at the peak of the Jat agitation, there were sufficient Army troops to ward off a “small-scale attack” by an “invading army”, but they proved ineffective as they were “not properly utilised” and, at least in one instance, even “misled into inaction”.
This is one of the findings of the Prakash Singh committee appointed by the Haryana government to probe the administrative and police failures during the Jat quota violence in February that claimed 30 lives and led to the destruction of public and private property on a massive scale.
The report says the Army sent 74 columns to Haryana, roughly equalling 12 battalions. “It is a formidable strength, enough to ward off a smallscale attack in a particular sector by an invading army. It is extremely unfortunate that the Army had to be deployed on such a large-scale to deal with internal disturbances,” says the report.
But despite that, the report notes that “the Army’s presence, its flag marches and whatever action it took in Haryana did not have the kind of impact on the rioters one would expect in normal circumstances” and goes on to describe two videos, one showing an Army unit with Haryana police, failing to challenge a mob of 300 slogan-shouting men in Rohtak, despite prohibitory orders that were in force then.
Another video from Hisar shows an Army column piloted by a vehicle possibly with police officials inside. “The pilot sees a group of rioters coming from the opposite direction. One would have expected the pilot to alert the Army column and engage the rioters. Instead the Bolero makes a U-turn to avoid any confrontation with the approaching mob… It was a clear case of forces avoiding a small group of 40/ 50 youth who could have been easily dispersed even with a mere show of force. The SDM and the DSP are squarely held responsible for this act which was partially cowardice and partially betrayed covert sympathy for the rioters,” says the report.
It also talks about “credible complaints” that the army was misled about the location of violence at Chhawani Colony in Jhajjar district, as a result of which it took three hours to reach the spot.
The report refers to the comments of the then Rohtak Deputy Commissioner who said, “… clear unwillingness was shown by the Army to fire upon the Jat agitators by citing them as civilians despite written instructions from DM.”
Singh raises the question of the Army’s “over-exposure” in controlling internal disturbances, and says that “if it continues to happen, it will be good neither for the Army nor for the internal security situation of the country… Army should be called in as the last resort only when all other efforts have failed”.
But the Haryana government was in a panic, and had placed a demand for 100 companies of Central Armed Police Forces and 200 columns of the Army, the report reveals, stating that “it was a fantastic, if not absurd, demand.”
The committee has suggested that the Army should be called to assist civil administration only as a last resort.
“The civil administration and the state police should normally be able to face challenges to the law and order situation,” says the report.