Monday, July 15, 2024

Haryana: Political schism spurs administrative failure

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On Wednesday, when Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, halted a Constitution bench’s discussions on the now-scrapped Article 370 of the Constitution and rostered an urgent hearing for a petition on the riots in Haryana and elsewhere, the message must have been loud and clear to the powers that be that enough is enough on the communal front. Wonderful beginning! Hopefully, the plea will be taken to its logical conclusion.
The Supreme Court has meanwhile directed the central and state governments to prevent any hate speech or violence during marches held by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal.The order also asked for the deployment of additional police or paramilitary forces and the installation of CCTV cameras in sensitive areas. The specifics are important.
For, communal clashes broke out between two groups in Nuh on the afternoon of 31 July, after a mob attempted to stop the Brij Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra taken out by thousands of devotees to mark Shravan Somvar. In the communal frenzy that ensued, at least six persons were killed, comprising two home guards and four civilians. Besides, around 20 police personnel were injured. The clashes have since spread to the adjoining areas of Haryana, including Delhi, Rajasthan’s Bhiwani, etc.
As usual, supposedly as a fire-fighting measure, mobile internet services were immediately suspended in Nuh and Faridabad up to Wednesday. But the state government has extended the shutdown till August 5 in the wake of adverse events in Nuh, Faridabad, and Palwa.The situation remains critical in sub-divisions of Gurugram.
As of Thursday, 176 people were arrested and 93 FIRs(including 46 in Nuh, 23 in Gurugram, three in Faridabad, three in Rewari, and 18 in Palwal) were registered. Besides, 78 people were taken into preventive detention.Among those arrested is Dinesh Bharti, who heads Jai Bharat Mata Vahini. He has been booked for posting a video inciting communal violence. In Gurugram, police have identified 50 social media accounts carrying objectionable posts. On Tuesday night, five warehouse were set ablaze and two meat shops ransacked in the Gurugram district by flash mobs.
On Wednesday, two ‘jhuggis’ were torched and a tea shop was vandalized. Many huts in a slumwere ransacked. Stray incidents continue to happen, though prohibitory orders are in force in Nuh, Gurugram, and other sensitive districts, pointing to orchestrated violence.
According to an FIR registered on a complaint from a subdivisional engineer, 400-500 rioters held 35-40 devotees hostage at the Ram Mandir in Ward No 9, Nuh. The complainant had been stationed at the Nuh Police Station as Duty Magistrate for the yatra. The FIR was registered under Sections 148, 149, 186, 332, 307, 342 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 25 of the Arms Act against 700-800 unknown persons.
According to the complaint, 700-800 rioters started pelting stones and opened fire with illegal weapons on the devotees and police personnel. They also torched government and private vehicles. According to another FIR, an additional Chief Judicial Magistrate and her three-year-old daughter, a gunman and a server assistant had to hide in a local workshop on Monday when a mob attacked their car in Nuh. The car was torched. The rioters also pelted stones and fired shots in the area.
When well-meaning people are questioning the need for yatra participants to carry swords, guns, and other weapons, Bittu Bajrangi, a participant in the yatra and cow vigilante, boasted that the swords were meant for puja. Those carrying guns had licences for their weapons, he added for good measure. “We participated in the rally with women and children. Will we attack anyone,” he then asked, suggesting the provocation came from members of the minority community.
Reflecting deep erosion of confidence in the Haryana government, migrant families in Gurugram are reportedly preparing to leave for their hometowns in other states. Caught in the crossfire of communal violence, Gurugram-based and other major firms, including KPMG and American Express, have taken proactive measures to provide safety for employees. Several companies have reinstated work-from-home policies temporarily.
All told, the latest bout of communal violence in Nuh and contiguous areas has exposed the schism in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-JannayakJanta Party coalition in the state. The Brij Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra was asking for trouble and it did become the flashpoint.
Divergent views are coming from even within BJP’s Haryana unit. No wonder, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Chautala differ on the yatra itself.Khattar sees a ‘conspiracy’ behind the attacks on the yatra. Deputy Chief Minister and Jannayak Janata Party chief Dushyant Chautala has blamed the organisers of the yatra (VHP and Co) and said that they did not give a proper estimate of the crowd to the administration.
Union Minister and BJP MP from Gurugram, Rao Inderjit Singh observed: “Who gave weapons to them for the procession? Who goes to a procession carrying swords, or sticks? This is wrong. A provocation took place from this side too. I am not saying there was no provocation from the other side.”
Inderjit Singh’s comments bluntthe CM’s ‘conspiracy’ theory. The same Inderjit met Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday but said cryptically later:”Details of every meeting need not be disclosed (to media)”.
Evidently, the JJP has distanced from the BJP due to the latter’s stance on the farmers’ protest and the wrestlers’ protest, apart from long-standing issues over seat-sharing.
A close look at the train of events in Nuh and elsewhere in Haryana and nearby areas suggests that the violence, though preventable, went out of control because of the friction in the ruling coalition and total administrative failure attributable to lack of clear orders from above.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar Haryana notoriously declared:”Police and Army cannot protect everyone”. Of course, for him, saying so was not a matter of shame. But, what about the implications of such a statement coming from none other than the Chief Minister of a state? Is it not abdication of responsibility? May God save the double-engine sarkar!
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