Faith in Haryana police is at rock bottom, and fingers are being pointed at greenhorn Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who also holds the home portfolio.
Chandigarh: The latest violence in Haryana, this time during protests against Hindi film Padmaavat, has thrown the spotlight on the repeated law enforcement failures of the state government and the inexperience of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar who holds the home portfolio.
The violence linked to the film, especially the attack on a school bus in Gurugram Wednesday, has sparked outrage across the country with a video of young children cowering in fear inside the bus going viral.
This trouble comes days after Haryana hit the headlines for 10 rapes, including the brutal murder of some of the victims, in one week. NCRB data for 2016 released last month showed Haryana has become the gang rape capital of India with 191 cases.
The teachers in the Gurugram school bus have said that the Haryana police stood on the sidelines and watched as protesters stoned their bus, breaking the glass windows. The protesters also set on fire a Haryana Roadways bus and damaged toll plazas and other vehicles.
The scenes are grim reminders of what the state witnessed in February 2016 during the Jat reservation campaign and more recently in August 2017 when Dera Sacha Sauda followers went berserk after Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted for rape.
With Padmaavat due to be released in the state Thursday, several cities are reported to be tense and many movie halls have said they would not be screening the controversial film. Although the police has said it is on high alert and prepared to tackle fresh trouble, opposition parties have said Haryana has descended into anarchy.
“Security has been beefed up across the state, 23 arrests have been made across Haryana for the arson that took place on Wednesday. More pre-emptive arrests are being made,” said state police chief B.S. Sandhu, adding that at this stage he did not feel the need to call for para-military forces to handle the situation.
But faith in Haryana police is at rock bottom, with the state tacitly supporting the opposition to the film. It is among the four states in India which banned the screening of the film. The state cabinet met on 16 January and took the decision, overtly keeping in view a deterioration of law and order.
Taking on the Khattar government, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said if Khattar cannot govern, he had no right to lead the state.
“What happened to school kids in their bus is a sign of anarchy,” he said.
Congress MLA Karan Dalal says Haryana police does not elicit any confidence in the public anymore. “Manohar Lal Khattar has failed the state and the incompetence of the police is where it shows first.”
The state witnessed unprecedented violence and arson in February 2016 when Jat protesters were virtually given a free run of the state. About 30 people died in three days that saw Jat agitators going on a rampage across towns burning shops, houses and public property. Over 200 persons were injured and losses were estimated at Rs 20,000 crore.
An inquiry report by former DGP of Uttar Pradesh Prakash Singh severely indicted the home department for incompetence and said that the administration and police officers showed “cowardice”.
In 2014, the Khattar government failed to handle the brewing crisis caused by Baba Rampal, the head of an ashram in Hisar, refusing to follow court orders. Khattar’s government expressed its inability to arrest the spiritual leader in court.
In August 2017, lakhs of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim supporters were allowed to gather in Panchkula, and when they turned violent, police shot 31 people dead and nearly 250 others were injured.
Khattar, a former RSS pracharak, is a political greenhorn. His response to every conflagration in the state has been to transfer a bureaucrat. He replaced home secretary P.K. Mahapatra in November 2015 with P.K. Das. Das was replaced by Ram Niwas after the Jat protests. And Ram Niwas was replaced by S.S. Prasad after the Panchkula violence.
Similarly, the state has had four DGPs in the three years Khattar has been CM. Y.P. Singhal replaced S.N. Vashisth in January 2015. Singhal was replaced in April 2016 by K.P. Singh, who was then removed suddenly in April last year and replaced by Sandhu.
Khattar’s BJP government, however, maintains that there is nothing wrong with law enforcement in the state, and it is as good or bad as in any other state.
“The chief minister has given very clear directions to his officers that anyone who takes the law into his hands be dealt with most severely,” Finance Minister Abhimanyu Singh told ThePrint, adding that the Gurugram school bus attack was most unfortunate.
“Those responsible for the incident will not be spared,” he said.