Former DGP of UP Police, Prakash Singh, who headed a committee to probe lapses during 2016 Jat agitation, has said that a clear message has to be delivered by Haryana Police to the Dera Sacha Sauda supporters gathered in Panchkula that if they indulge in any lawless activity “it will not be tolerated and we will hammer you”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Prakash Singh said clear directions from the political establishment of the state must be given to handle the situation and police leadership should deal with a firm hand. He said that while gathering of large number of people who have not declared any violent intentions cannot be prevented yet a firm message could be given to them not to indulge in wrongdoing.
“Groups of people coming to a place cannot be prevented unless they have declared their objective to be disruptive. Legally speaking, given the chaotic democracy we have, they cannot be prevented. But you can be certainly very firm with them and tell them that any lawless activity will not be tolerated and if it happens we are going to hammer you,” he said.
When asked if the situation seemed to be heading the way that Jat agitation had in February 2016, Prakash Singh said different degrees of lapses took place at the time. “There was involvement of police, connivance, abdication of duty and hesitation too. There were different shades of lapses found at different places,” he said.
Prakash Singh said the problem was that “everybody becomes populist”, takes populist stance and the police is always on the defensive. “They know they can use force to disperse them but in the process if four-five people get killed who will defend them. The government should give a clear message that law and order has to be maintained at all costs. They should call SHOs, DSPs, Sps and DCs and convey this to them that whatever legitimate action you take you shall be defended,” he said.
Meanwhile, fearing a repeat of the situation which developed during the Jat agitation in February 2016, senior police officials in Punjab and Chandigarh have expressed their surprise on Haryana Police having allowed a large influx of supporters of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in Panchkula.
“These supporters should have been contained well before they reached the tri-city area. Ideally they should have been stopped well before coming close to Panchkula in places like Ambala, Karnal or Kurukshetra,” a senior police official said.
Another senior police official said that arson and damage to private property like the Jat agitation could also not be ruled out because of the large number of persons in town. “It is not necessary that the dera followers will indulge in any untoward incident. But there may be anti-social elements who would take advantage of the situation and try to spark of violence,” another officer said.
A senior Army officer who handled the Army’s Western Command’s response to the Jat agitation by deploying military columns in Haryana said that it was a mistake on part of the district administration to have allowed such a large number of persons to assemble in the town. “These should have been stopped from entering the city. Now there is every chance that private property will be damaged and the situation may spiral out of control for a period of time like it happened in 2016,” he said.
Commenting on a delayed response by the civil administration during Jat agitation, the inquiry report submitted by Parkash Singh had found that there was no direction from the senior-most officials. The report had said that a number of officers subscribed to the “philosophy of chedogey to badhega”, arguing that taking action against the rioters would have led to graver consequences.
His report had also criticised the administrative paralysis that gripped Haryana during the riots that claimed 30 lives, saying the “highest functionaries” in the government failed to show “the kind of guidance, direction and control” that is expected in a crisis of such proportions. It indicted 90 police and administrative officers for their failure to act.