THE 32 deaths in Panchkula on August 25, all attributed to firing to control a riotous mob after the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, has shown up the Haryana Police for its poor and untrained shooting, which in situations like the one seen last week, results in indiscriminate pumping of lead and massive casualties. According to Section 130 of the CrPC, when using force to disperse an assembly, “every officer of the armed forces…shall use as little force, and do as little injury to person and property…”
The training manual of the police force specifies that a head constable and a constable have to fire 30 rounds in a year, and Assistant Sub-Inspectors (ASI) and officers ranked above have to fire 114 rounds annually. The training for these in-service police personnel is split in two parts, conducted over two halves of the year. As per the drill manual, police personnel are instructed to fire at the legs to incapacitate the rioter. The shots are fired straight at rioters only when they are armed with deadly weapons and pose life threats to the security forces.
Sources in Panchkula police said the last firing practice was held four months ago for district police personnel at Narnaul firing range in Mahendragarh district but most police personnel do not go for practice. “Personnel who are deputed in the police stations are burdened with other routine work, then there are VIP duties, so most end up not going for this annual practice. It weakens the skills and reflexes, and in a riot situation, policemen are not able to aim so that they shoot only to disable instead of killing the person,” a police officer said on condition of anonymity.
Other than Narnaul, shooting practice is also held at the Ambala shooting range in the state. The officer also said that during practice, the police personnel are supposed to fire various types of weapons including carbines, Light Machine Guns (LMGs), Self Loading Rifles (SLRs), Pistols and Revolvers of different calibers, and tear gas shells. Police personnel are also supposed to learn how to shoot below the abdomen, so as to disable rather than kill. “It is a year and a half since I last went for shooting practice,” said a Panchkula constable who did not want to be identified. He said most of his colleagues skip the practice.
On Friday when the violence erupted at Zirakpur-Panchkula flyover, the rifle of one Haryana Police commando jammed. Two other commandos were seen struggling to take aim at the Dera followers who were attacking police personnel from three sides— front, left and right side of the flyover. When the firing started at the mob, it was indiscriminate. Almost all the dead had bullet injuries above the abdomen. Panchkula Police Commissioner A S Chawla did not answer calls for his comment.