Chandigarh: The Haryana government, it is learnt, will be holding an inquiry against Karnal Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Ayush Sinha, who came under criticism after he was filmed Saturday allegedly ordering police to use violence against protesting farmers and “smash their heads” to keep them from breaching cordons.
A highly placed source in the Haryana Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) told ThePrint Monday that Sinha will be investigated for misconduct. Following the findings of the inquiry report, if needed, action would be initiated against him, the source said.
“The government is in the process of finalising the officer who will be holding the inquiry,” the source added.
ThePrint reached Sinha, a 2018-batch IAS officer, by phone calls and text for a comment, but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
After the video featuring his purported directive went viral, and reports of a police lathi-charge emerged from the scene of the protest, a social media storm ensued. While many farmers were reportedly injured in the lathi-charge, police have also accused the protesters of using violence. It is yet to be determined if the lathi-charge occurred at the same spot where Sinha was posted, although the chief minister said Monday that they happened at two different locations.
The CMO officer said the inquiry, among other things, will also look into the “circumstances that led to the lathi-charge at the Bastara toll point in Karnal Saturday”.
“The officer who will conduct the inquiry will assess if there was excessive use of force by police during the lathi-charge and whether it was provoked or unprovoked,” added the officer.
Other factors to be investigated are “the impact of Sinha’s words on police and if any lathi-charge took place at the point where Sinha was in charge and if police actually hit farmers on the head at that cordon point”.
Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh Monday, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said the lathi-charge and Sinha’s video “should not be connected”.
He said the incidents occurred at different venues, but added that the Director General of Police (DGP) is also investigating Sinha’s remarks.
“Those agitating and taking law and order into their hands are not farmers but politically motivated people. Haryana farmers are happily working in their fields, those are Punjab farmers who are actually sitting at Tikri and Singhu borders,” he added, referring to the farm laws’ agitation.
Farmers seek compensation
Protesting farmers had gathered at the Bastara toll point Saturday in a bid to stop Manohar Lal Khattar from reaching Karnal, where he had to attend a function.
Sinha was in charge of the cordon point closest to the venue of the function.
Through a statement issued that day, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) law and order Navdeep Singh Virk said at least 10 police personnel also got injured when the agitating farmers turned aggressive and started pelting them with stones.
“The agitating farmers were trying to move into Karnal, but when they were told by the police force on duty that they cannot do so, they attacked the police with stones and even farm equipment. Following which police had to resort to a use of mild force,” said Virk.
Despite the farmers’ unions “assurance in June that their protests will not turn aggressive, there have been several instances where farmers have resorted to violence during their protest”, he said. If a protest turns violent, it is the duty of police to maintain law and order, he added.
Meanwhile, at a kisan mahapanchayat held at the Gharaunda anaj mandi in Karnal Monday, Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Gurnam Singh Chaduni demanded that a murder case be lodged against Sinha and other officers who ordered the lathi-charge.
The farmers have also demanded Rs 2 lakh each as compensation for those injured and Rs 25 lakh for the family of the farmer who allegedly died that evening. They also said the “over 100” cases registered by police against the farmers for violence should be withdrawn.
Chaduni said the farmers will gherao the Karnal administrative complex on 7 September if the government doesn’t fulfil these demands by 6 September.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)