The Prakash Singh Committee’s 450-page first report on the Jat reservation agitation riots brought startling facts in the public eye, related to the damage and destruction caused due to violence, including the loss of lives.
The report made scathing remarks on the failure of the civil administration and police in controlling the rampaging mobs. Embarrassed by the findings of the report, the Haryana government asked the head of the probe panel, Prakash Singh, a former Director General of Border Security Force and former DGP (Uttar Pradesh), not to go ahead with the second part of the report – which was to be on police reforms.
A ‘thank you letter and a big No’ – that was all that the Haryana government had to say to the prospects of bringing any kind of reforms in the state’s police administration, due to the "immense pressure on the government from certain political and bureaucratic sections”. A former member of National Security Advisory Board and a Padma Shri awardee, Singh spoke to Firstpost, revealing the behind-the-scene story of sounding the death knell to Prakash Singh Committee’s second part of the report.
Excerpts from the interview:
As per news reports, the Haryana government has asked you not to work on the second part of your two-part report – on riots caused during the Jat agitation. When did you come to know about it?
Nearly three weeks ago, I got a formal letter from the additional chief secretary (Home) of the Haryana government, asking me not go ahead with the second part of the report. In the letter, the government thanked me for my work and for completing the first part of the report in record time.
However, they said that they do not consider it necessary to have the second part of the probe panel’s report on police reforms and structures. The government said that they would implement the recommendations I made in the first report and that it would be enough. In other words, the state government, this time, didn’t want any recommendations from me on reforms, as they had wanted earlier.
What could have been the possible reason for that?
In my report, a section of politicians, bureaucrats and police officials have been indicted for dereliction of duty and it caused a lot of commotion as it became unpalatable for the government. Obviously, the particular section wasn’t happy and they didn’t want anything more embarrassing to come up in the second report.
Besides, there are godfathers of these officials who didn’t want anything uncanny to come up against them as well. They created a lot of pressure on the government, especially on Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who himself is a simple and honest man.
Besides the findings of the first report – that became public – what could have been the pressing reason for the Haryana government to prevent you from working on the second part?
See, the first report acted as a bitter pill for the government and it had to take action against some (if not all) of the officials in the administration and police. Amicus Curie Anupam Gupta actively pursued my report in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, following which the High Court asked for the action-taken report from Haryana government.
Notices were issued to IAS and IPS officers. The government has to tell the court on 1 September as to what they have done (action taken) on the first report. Here, the destiny of the second report became clear as they decided to dump the plan that could bring about reforms in police administration.
Could you elaborate on your probe panel’s two-part report?
After the Jat agitation over the reservation issue, and the mayhem that followed, the Haryana government wanted me to work on two broad areas. One, on the role of administration and police in the reservation riot, the cause and the aftermath; and second on police reforms, on how to improve functioning, structure and other aspects of police administration. The objective was to make the police system more professional and people-friendly.
The first report had two volumes – the first one is already in the public domain and the second volume was on the intelligence system. I just started working on the second report, which is about police reforms, but now that is over.
What was so secretive about the second volume of your first report, that it was not made public?
It was confidential and had nothing of public interest. It dealt with the CID and intelligence system prevailing in the state. In fact, there’s nothing to hide in terms of intelligence inputs, as political leaders gave statements every other day about the findings of agencies involved in the investigation.
People came to know about it through news reports. It’s not the failure of intelligence, but that of the state administration. At the first instance it was not ready to tackle the agitation, and when it did happen, the administration totally failed to control it. So, why should the intelligence be made the scapegoat?
What was so disturbing in the first part of your fact finding the report, that it virtually compelled the Haryana government not to proceed with the second part?
The 450-page report indicted 80 officials, including those from the IAS and IPS cadre, which would be unpalatable for any government. During our visits to riot-affected districts in Haryana, we had found signs of the widespread rampage, destruction of property, burnt houses and suffering of people due to loss of lives, injuries and financial loss. There were instances of deliberate negligence and cases of deliberately not enforcing the law in certain places.
It has been found that many officials left the scene to save their lives when the situation got out of control. It was a deliberate, calculated destruction caused by rioters in connivance with a section from state administration and police. The rioters from a particular community went on a rampage under the supervision of a section of officials from that particular community.
Besides the death of 30 people and more than 200 severely injured in the riot, as per a conservative estimate, about Rs 20,000 crore losses were incurred due to widespread destruction, damage to property and business establishments.
Won’t this act of the Haryana government – of preventing you from working on the report that speaks of police reforms – send out a wrong message in public?
There is a need for consciousness to initiate reforms, which seems to be missing in this case. At least, a wrong message will go to the people of Haryana, who brought this government to power.
Almost every alternative day, cases of rape and sexual molestation are reported in Haryana.
During your probe, did you find any evidence of sexual molestation during the Jat agitation in any part of Haryana?
Barring a few cases of eve-teasing, no serious complaints came up. The fact remains that very few women came up before the committee with complaints. In the beginning itself, the administration and police tried to cover up the investigation and did a shoddy job. No rape victim came up with any complaint. Since the HC-monitored SIT had been working on it, we didn’t cover that segment to avoid any overlapping.
In your second report – related to police reforms – what exactly were you looking for?
I have always talked about bringing about police reforms and will continue to work in that direction till my last breath. Reform has to be vertical, from the top to bottom. There is a need to address appointments of senior police officials, strengthening of manpower, separate investigation from routine work, tenure of officials, etc. In Haryana, everyone knows how the top cops get appointed. During the previous regime, appointments were made in the police as per CM’s order and not on merit. The condition of Haryana Arms Police Battalion is pathetic.
In terms of police reforms, I mean that the government should have full control and have a laid-down policy for the police to function. In operational matters, the police should have autonomy, whereas, in personal matters, there should be a fair degree of independence. But, the IAS cadres want to have complete autonomy on operational matters.
If reforms take place, the hold of politicians and bureaucrats on police will become weaker, which they don’t want. So, no reforms. The problem is that nowadays officials want to enjoy power, facilities and more money, but no one is ready to take responsibility and be accountable for the job they do.
My policy is that of minimum interference, in the day-to-day working of police, and to let them work on the specific guidelines provided to them; or else the department will become weak.