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Jat agitation probe: As attacks spread, policemen deserted their posts, sided with protesters

Deserters numbered hundreds, many stayed away for 6-7 days, finds panel

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh |
Updated: April 19, 2016 2:23:32 pm
jat agitation, jat agitation probe, jat agitation investigation, jat stir, jat quota stir, jat stir probe, jat stir investigation, india news, haryana news, indian express Victims of arson have accused police of not helping. (Express Photo)

The ongoing fact-finding probe into the Jat agitation that shook Haryana in February has heard testimonies confirming that a section of the police force virtually rebelled during those three days of arson, deserting their posts and ignoring orders.

The number of deserters belonging to the Jat community was in hundreds, highly placed sources said, with the maximum in the worst-affected Jhajjar and Rohtak districts.

On an average, the Prakash Singh panel found, 60-70 policemen deserted their posts in each district, even as mobs comprising Jats went on the rampage, burning shops and houses as well as torching police stations and police posts.

The panel, led by Prakash Singh, a retired IPS officer and Padma Shri recipient, and comprising Additional Chief Secretary Vijai Vardhan and K P Singh (who became DGP, Haryana, last week), has prepared a list of such deserters, with their names, ranks, belt numbers, places of postings and the days for which they remained absent from their posts.

The desertions were one reason the state government immediately sought the help of paramilitary forces and the Army, senior officials told The Indian Express.

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In the process of concluding its report, the panel is likely to recommended strict action against the personnel who abandoned their posts. The state government and police department have not initiated any penal action against most of them.

During the course of its inquiry, which began on February 26, the panel examined more than 3,000 witnesses, recording their statements on camera and in writing, which The Indian Express has accessed. The probe is likely to contain more than 10 chapters and may run into 350-400 pages, sources said.

Among the most worrying facts that have come to the notice of the panel is police personnel, belonging to the Jat community, abandoning their posts soon after Haryana began to burn on February 19. Nearly a dozen police posts and police stations in Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonipat and Gohana were damaged during the arson.

The panel also found several instances of wilful absence from scenes of attacks by policemen. A number of deputy superintendents of police told the panel that the constabulary refused to obey their orders and openly showed solidarity with their community members.

Victims of the arson whose properties were destroyed and who abused the state administration during their testimonies also accused policemen and officials belonging to the Jat community of remaining mute spectators while protesters attacked their shops, cars and homes.

Details gathered from superintendents of police and other middle-rank police officers showed that there were instances when police personnel remained absent from their posts for as many as six-seven days. Later, the panel found, most of the missing policemen rejoined their places of posting, as if they had simply been on leave.

The probe panel is likely to recommend action against the policemen who went missing, which could result in their dismissal.

The panel also noted that then DGP Y P Singhal did not tour any of the affected areas, only accompanying Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to Rohtak after the agitation got over.

Vowing that “the guilty will not be spared”, a senior Haryana Police officer said, “Even people in police are a reflection of society. There were people who showed immense bravery and there were a few who showed cowardice as well. Reports from various quarters were received about police personnel abandoning their posts and not performing their official duty, especially in Rohtak and Jhajjar. Action has already been taken in some of the cases, even dismissals in a couple of cases. Rest, the government will take adequate measures once the Prakash Singh panel’s report is finalised, because that was the purpose of this fact-finding committee, to find out all such instances of cowardice so that further action can be taken. As such a judicial probe has also been ordered in the case.”

“Unprecedented action shall be taken on the basis of the probe panel’s report,” a senior Haryana government officer said. “We are waiting for it and when it comes to us, all such persons who failed to perform their duties shall be taken to task.”

Though there is no exact data on the number of Jats in the Haryana Police, they are believed to dominate at the constable and head constable level. In fact, following claims during the Jat agitation of the community having a low representation in government services, MLAs, including of the BJP, demanded in the recent Assembly session that the government bring out a white paper on the number of Jats and other community members in various government departments.

In July 2015, the Haryana Staff Selection Commission had initiated recruitment for 7,200 posts of sub-inspectors and constables. The process is still on.

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