Only a third of the 90-odd Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel who marched towards Jawahar Bagh Thursday to conduct a “rehearsal” were armed with rifles. So, when nearly 1,000 “satyagrahis” fired on the security personnel from atop trees, two companies of PAC stood as mute spectators. For, they were armed only with lathis. The camp had about 3,000 men, women and children.
With the death toll in the Mathura violence rising to 27 on Saturday, The Indian Express spoke to personnel who were part of the operation on the lapses on part of the security personnel.
A PAC platoon commander, who is among 20 personnel admitted in hospital, said the most important lapse on their part was the decision to march towards Jawahar Bagh with only one armed company. This, despite an attack on the team two days earlier, when the “satyagrahis” were given a final ultimatum for eviction. “Previously, they beat up a policeman and a magistrate. Despite this, we went for a rehearsal although we had sufficient guns,” said Mukesh Kumar (30).
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A PAC official said: “It was only supposed to be a rehearsal, like a show of strength. But the strategy backfired. There was no plan to evict the protesters. Three companies marched, but only the one that followed the SP was armed. The other two companies only had lathis. No one apprehended an armed attack. We should have gone in with all the three companies armed. When two companies stood there silently, the protesters turned more aggressive. This is huge security failure on our part.”
Asked if the “guerrilla attack” launched by the “satyagrahis” was the main reason for the police failure, another PAC personnel answered in negative.
Stating that over a dozen PAC personnel who were part of the operation have worked in Maoist-affected Sonbhadra area in eastern Uttar Pradesh, he said: “We have successfully carried out operations against Maoists. We are not new to the guerrilla form of attack. PAC is trained to counter such attack.”
The PAC personnel said that after the sudden attack on the SP, there was no one in command. “We stood there waiting for orders. Only after the SHO was shot in the head, the PAC personnel launched a counter attack on their own. This delay worsened the situation. If the command had come earlier, the SHO could have been saved,” he added.