Notwithstanding the public anger over the lack of adequate response by the Kaithal administration and security forces to tackle rioters, the Deputy Commissioner and the Commanding Officer of the Army unit deployed in the district have been patting each other on the back for their “excellent” role during the agitation.
Deputy Commissioner (DC), Kaithal Nikhil Gajraj wrote to Col Amit Awasthi, Commanding Officer of 511 Air Defence Missile Regiment on February 26 praising the contribution of the Army columns who “played a great role to prevent rioting in Kalayat and Pundri towns”.
This, despite the fact that Kaithal saw some of the worst cases of rioting. As reported by The Indian Express, at least 20 shops owned by Brahmins, Rajputs, Sainis, Bairagis and Kumhars were looted and later gutted on February 20, as per the owners.
The DC also praised the Army for having avoided violence at several places, including Padma City mall. However, the mall was not only damaged but several shops in it were also looted as corroborated by locals.
In his response, Colonel Amit Awasthi praised the administration in operations in the district from February 20 to 26. In his letter dated February 27, the Colonel declared the operation to tackle agitators to have had “resounding success far beyond our expectations”.
He praised the “raw courage in the face of thousands of rioters” of the Superintendent of Police, Krishan Murari and Additional Deputy Commissioner, Jitender Dahiya.
But locals have a different tale to tell. The owner of Nirmal Sweets, Ravinder Kumar, says the SHO of the area was enjoying sweets at his shop when the Jat rioters set it ablaze after looting it.
Col Awasthi, however, finds that the district administration needed to be complimented. He also reveals, in his detailed letter, that the Army and the civil administration worked with the “three point aim of no loss of life, no destruction of property and early return to normalcy”.
Like the DC, the Army officer also found the dispersal of crowd from the Padma Mall was a fine example of “iron fist-velvet glove”.
Giving credence to the popular perception that the use of force against the rioters was minimal, Col Awasthi states that “the rioting elements were aware of the restraint shown by the administration and the police to ensure that minimum force was used to contain them under the constant threat of use of force in case of misbehaviour.”