AFTER TWO police buses were set on fire on Sunday and a dozen police personnel and three journalists injured in small incidents of violence in Fatehabad, police have filed FIRs against nearly 50 people in connection with the case. “Some criminal elements had infiltrated the protests. They were carrying dangerous weapons and insisting on joining the dharna along with the same,” Haryana DGP K P Singh said in Fatehabad on Monday when he went to meet the injured police personnel hospitalised in Fatehabad and Hisar.
The DGP also announced that the police would provide body protectors and helmets at the spot to journalists covering potentially violent situations. He also announced that the treatment of injured mediapersons would be borne by the district administration. They would be given financial assistance of Rs 5,000 and “honoured’” at a state-level function on August 15 along with police personnel.
In the FIR, 46 people have been named, said local police.
However, the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) leader, Yashpal Malik, angrily denied the DGP’s charge. “The agitators were provoked by a DSP, who did not even allow women protesters to join the dharna on tractor-trolleys. The police also resorted to lathicharge and firing teargas at them without provocation,” he said, adding the protesters would lodge a complaint against the police for the attack.
The trouble began when protesters wanted to arrive at the dharna site at Dhani Gopal village on tractor-trolleys.
Wanting to curtail this movement, police put up barriers and asked the protesters to park their tractor-trolleys a kilometre away from the dharna site. The fear was the protesters would drive onwards to Delhi. The two sides clashed on this disagreement.
The DGP told The Indian Express that the police response was “appropriate” for the situation and the local administration had handled the incident in keeping with the directions issued to them that they should deal firmly with protesters who broke the law.
The challenge before the district administration was to prevent a repeat of Rohtak 2016, when the mishandling of an incident there led to violence across the state. This time, the police were both firm and tactful. After the clash following the denial of permission to tractor-trolleys, the police exercised restraint.
Usually, such an incident would have seen police enter the nearby villages, pull out suspects and give them a thrashing. This time, though, a large police force reached the site of the incident by evening, cops stayed away from the site of the dharna as well as from the villages.
But the local administration also opened a channel of communication with those at the dharna site to persuade them to maintain peace.
The Jat agitators, at the dharna from the mike, asked the protesters to keep calm instead of indulging in confrontation with the cops.
Meanwhile, talks had begun between the Khattar government and AIJASS representatives, including Malik, on a compromise so that the protesters could call off the agitation and the outcome of those talks helped cool the temperature in Fatehabad.