“The policemen should remove their uniform and throw it away,” said Piyush Sharma, the only son of Shail Bala Sharma who was killed during the demolition drive after Narayani Guest House owner Vijay Thakur opened fire.
Talking to Chandigarh Newsline at Solan district hospital where his mother’s body was kept in mortuary, Piyush, who is an MBBS and is posted at Kotgath in the state’s health department, termed the incident an outcome of “system failure”.
Shail Bala’s husband Dr V P Sharma got unwell after learning about the demise of his wife and was hospitalised in the same hospital.
Vasudev Sharma, a relative, attributed the incident to “negligence of the administration” and asked “what were the policemen who were present on the spot, doing? It was even worse when police could not even arrest the killer. If this is the state of affairs, how can government officers work in an honest manner?”
H N Sharma, who worked as administrative officer in the directorate where Dr V P Sharma is posted as director, said, “While carrying out such drives, the administration should ensure that weapons of such hotel owners are confiscated as a precautionary measure.”
S R Mardi, DGP, Himachal Pradesh, said, “The matter will be probed thoroughly to find out the lapses, if any. Until we conclude our probe, I cannot say anything at this point. Our top priority at this stage is to nab the accused who has his weapon and yet at large.”
The DGP said accused Vijay Thakur was serving as private secretary to one of the directors in Himachal Pradesh’s electricity department. “He is a government employee. We did not expect him to go berserk,” DGP told Chandigarh Newsline.
An electricity department Sub-Divisional Officer also ran for cover along with Shail Bala, when Vijay Kumar opened indiscriminate firing. DGP Mardi added that “SDO who is also one of the eyewitnesses has told us that he was running ahead of Shail Bala. He added that after Vijay shot her dead, he stopped and asked Vijay if he will shoot him as well. But Vijay replied in the negative and instead ran away”.
Solan Deputy Commissioner Vinod Kumar said,”The district administration had not ordered any separate probe into the incident.”
Demolition drive stopped midway
The demolition drive came to a grinding halt after Shail Bala was shot dead. The drive commenced about 11 am. Officials, who were assigned the task to conduct the demolition drive, reached Dharampur in the morning. They first held a meeting at a government guesthouse at Dharampur and constituted four teams to carry out the demolition simultaneously at hotels located along around 13-km stretch from Dharampur to Kasauli. While the majority of hotels started the demolition of unauthorised structures on their own, earth movers demolished portions of the hotels at a few other places.
There was a standoff between the officials and owners of Shivalik hotel and Narayani Guest House which culminated in Shail Bala’s murder. Vijay was earlier seen pleading before the officer with folded hands seeking time for demolishing his unauthorised construction. However, the officer cited the Supreme Court orders to expedite the demolition and also asked Vijay “not to take it personally”. The officer also told Vijay that she was merely doing her official duty on the orders of the court.
Bird’s View owner Amardeep Singh Gill whose hotel also faced demolition termed the incident “extremely unfortunate”. “It is hard to believe that Vijay opened fire. He is general secretary of our association and we always sought his advice on legal issues,” Gill told Chandigarh Newsline.