June 01, 2016

India: Haryana government must take strict action against apathetic officials for Jat riots (Edit, The Times of India, June 1, 2016)

State of chaos: Haryana government must take strict action against apathetic officials for Jat riots
June 1, 2016, 2:00 am IST TOI Edit in TOI Editorials | Edit Page, India | TOI

The shocking indictment by the three-member Prakash Singh committee – of top IAS and IPS officials in the Haryana government – for utter dereliction of duty during the Jat riots calls for speedy justice. The government must make the report public and hand out exemplary punishment to the guilty. Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar has suspended a total of 20 officers (4 IPS, 3 IAS, 3 SDMs and 10 DSPs) of the 90 mentioned in the report, but he needs to go further to stem the rot in the system.

Almost 30 people lost their lives and large-scale destruction of public and private property took place when the Jat community agitation demanding reservation in backward classes turned violent during February 19-22. Officers who shirked their duty must be held accountable and punishment must go beyond just cursory suspensions. The sheer scale of administrative dysfunction exposed by the report is frightening. The then DGP and ACS (Home) reportedly failed to produce a single written order issued to the administration on procedures to be followed during the horrific riots. Apathy was such that even the standard practice of having a state control room during the riots was not followed. Even more disturbing are “credible complaints” against local officers for misleading the army on the whereabouts of violence-hit areas on a number of occasions.

Witnesses have also told media about women commuters being dragged into the fields and gang-raped on the national highway near Murthal on February 22-23. The initial status report filed by Haryana police denied such incidents, but following media reports the high court took suo moto notice. The breach of Delhi’s main source of water, Munak canal, by agitators on February 21 points to grave security threats to crucial infrastructure. The government needs to take necessary steps to safeguard important installations against all forms of threat.

There is a tendency among our political class to describe riots as expressions of spontaneous anger. The truth is that such calamitous incidents only take place when the rule of law is suspended; mobs get galvanised when they sense complicity in police. This violent agitation in the national capital’s backyard should also serve as a timely reminder for the executive to pay heed to the Supreme Court and implement its 2006 police reforms order. A government’s primary responsibility is to uphold rule of law; not to do so is to become a failed state.