Home States Hariyana/Punjab ‘Padmaavat’ violence: eyebrows raises while Haryana police repeatedly fallen woefully short

‘Padmaavat’ violence: eyebrows raises while Haryana police repeatedly fallen woefully short

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(G.N.S) Dt. 25

New Delhi

Yesterday, a rampaging anti-‘Padmaavat’ mob in Haryana’s Gurugram attacked school buses taking children home.

As the group of 50-odd hooligans hurled bricks, stones and other projectiles on the bus, as many as 30 terrified children huddled under the seats to shield themselves from the missives and from glass shards flying at them as more and more windows shattered. That’s not all. The kids got off easy. Turns out, eyewitnesses said the mob was armed with petrol bombs and tried to set fire to the school bus. The Haryana Police just about managed to stop that from happening.

This isn’t the first time the Haryana Police has fallen woefully short. Here is a list of four other occasions, from recent times, when the state’s constabulary proved it isn’t equal to the task of maintaining law and order in the face of hooliganism:

On August 25, 2017, minutes, or even seconds, after a court ruled self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim guilty of rape, thousands of his frenzied supporters gathered outside the courtroom in Panchkula erupted in fury. They began pelting stones, setting fire to vehicles and public property and attacking other bystanders and police.

The Ram Rahim verdict was read out at 3 pm on that day. Within an hour and 15 minutes, five people were already dead in the violence. And the rampaging mob had barely begun its destruction. By 7 pm, as many as 29 people were dead and hundreds wounded; the final death toll was 34.

All of this, despite the Haryana Police and the rest of India being aware for days that thousands of Ram Rahim supporters were making their way to Panchkula for the final hearing on the case. And all of this, despite failing to take precautions to avoid a repeat of similar violence a mere 18 months earlier.

In February 2016, 30 people were killed and over 300 injured in a mere three days of violence by members of the Jat community who were and still are demanding quotas in jobs and education. Nine women were raped – many were gangrapes – during this mob violence. Northern Indian states lost a whopping Rs 34,000 crores in stalled businesses and damage to public property.

The Haryana government set up a committee, headed by former Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police Prakash Singh, to investigate.

His verdict: A massive failure on the part of Haryana Police and the administration – at the highest echelons. Singh’s 451-page report indicted 90 police and administrative officers for their failure to act in controlling the violence.

“What was lacking was the will to act, the determination to prevent riotous mobs from assembling in the first instance and then dealing with them effectively while they were committing acts of violence, arson, loot or vandalism… officers at the district level, barring a few honourable exceptions, just did not rise to the occasion,” said the report.

The report detailed a litany of acts that amounted to dereliction of duty – cowardice, hesitation in taking swift and decisive action, deliberate avoidance due to a caste bias, and worst of all, abetment, in some instances.

“They were either unequal to the daunting situation they faced or they could not mobilise the full strength of the officers and men under their command, some of whom went missing or deserted their duties,” said the report.

In November 2014, six people died and more than a 100 were injured in a two-week standoff between Rampal’s supporters and Haryana police in Barwala, Hisar.

Rampal’s supporters refused to allow the police to enter the premises to arrest their godman, against whom the Punjab and Haryana High Court had issued a non-bailable warrant.

Some 15,000 Rampal followers – including women, children and the aged – were being forced to remain inside Rampal’s ashram in Barwala, so they could act as a human shield for the ‘godman’ against the police.

In January 2011, members of 12 Jat community khap panchayats in Haryana blocked rail and road traffic in Jind district for 11 days, to protest the arrest of some from their community in the 2010 Mirchpur caste violence incident. The blockade was accompanied by large-scale vandalism – buses were stoned, rail tracks were damaged and 3,130 trees felled.

The damage to the railways alone came to Rs 34 crore.

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The vandals were protesting the arrest of so-called upper caste persons accused of torching a hamlet in Haryana’s Mirchpur hamlet, killing a 70-year-old Dalit man and his disabled daughter in April 2010.

18 arrested over attack on school bus in Gurugram

Haryana police on Thursday arrested 18 persons in connection with yesterday’s attack on a school bus in Gurugram, said a media report.

The men, according to the report in The Indian Express, were part of the mob that attacked the bus with stones and sticks while protesting against the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat.

They are likely to be produced before a local court in Gurugram, said the report.

The report added that the bus belonging to GD Goenka World School came under attack as it drove past the mob that had just torched a Haryana Roadways bus.

A video shot by a passenger on the bus showed terrified schoolchildren crouching on the floor, mentioned the report and the 13-second video showed a few shattered windows and a student sobbing constantly in the background, while staff members were heard telling the children to keep low and not get up.

“Traffic was clearing up when some men from the mob began throwing stones at us. They came at us with faces covered,” the report mentioned Parvesh Kumar, the driver of the GD Goenka World School, Sohna, school bus as having said.

There were ten children on board the bus at the time, who study in grades ranging from nursery to class XII, officials said. In addition, there were three teachers, one conductor, and a helper who were also in the vehicle, apart from the driver, said the report.

“We did not even have a chance to understand what was happening, or request the men to not harm us. They attacked us so suddenly that we barely had enough time to get ourselves and the students out of the harm’s way,” mentioned the report a school employee who was in the bus having as said.

Manish Sehgal, PRO of Gurgaon Police, according to the report had said, “The school bus was driving past the area when a roadways bus was set afire, and protesters threw stones at the school bus as well. Some glass was shattered, but no injuries have been reported until now.”

Bus torched in Gurugram, cars vandalised in Rohini

A day before the release of Padmaavat , suspected members of Shri Rajput Karni Sena staged violent protests in Delhi-NCR on Wednesday, including attacking a school bus full of children in Gurugram. Incidents of violence were reported in Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad as well.

In Gurugram, where Section 144 is in effect within a 200-metre radius of cinema halls, suspected members of the group torched a Haryana Roadways bus near Bhondsi village on Sohna Road and blocked traffic at Kherki Daula toll plaza on Delhi-Jaipur Highway.

They also threw stones at a school bus carrying 20-25 students. The police said the children escaped unhurt as the driver of the bus refused to stop. Arrests have been made in connection with the incident, said a Gurugram police officer.

Neeta Bali, Principal of G.D. Goenka World School, Sohna Road, said the incident happened around 3 p.m. “One of our buses was attacked by stone pelters near Ghamroj. The kids and teachers ducked for cover on the floor. No one was hurt in the incident… We have decided to observe a holiday on Thursday, seeing the unrest.”

Following the incident, several other schools in Gurugram also announced that they will not be opening on Thursday, including GEMS Modern Academy and Shikshantar. However, Heritage Xperiential Learning School issued a statement that it will remain open after being “assured that authorities would maintain safety”.

In north-west Delhi’s Rohini, around a dozen cars parked outside a mall were vandalised. The Delhi Police said that around 100 people were planning to march towards a multiplex in Prashant Vihar, when some of them were detained a few metres away from it.

In Noida and Ghaziabad, protesters blocked roads and agitated outside malls.

The protesters have threatened multiplex and theatre owners against screening the film, alleging that it portrays the character of ‘Rani Padmavati’ in “poor light”.

The Gurugram and Delhi Police are maintaining high security at all the multiplexes and theatres that are scheduled to run the movie.

“We have already instructed all district DCPs to be vigilant and act strongly in case of any violence by members of any fringe group,” said a senior police officer with the Delhi Police.

At the Kherki Daula toll plaza, the police said that suspected Karni Sena members blocked traffic for over 30 minutes. A few of them damaged toll booths and vehicles, a police officer said.

The Gurugram administration had on Tuesday imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC, which will remain in effect till Sunday.

The orders have been imposed as the Karni Sena has warned of protests against the screening of Padmaavat , a period drama.

“The district administration has deployed 25 magistrates with police force at various sensitive locations in the city. Special security arrangements have been made under the jurisdiction of 10 police stations where the film will be released,” said Vinay Pratap Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Gurugram.

He refuted reports that pubs and bars in the city are being ordered to shut down and tweeted: “No order regarding closure of pubs & bars from 7 PM onwards today has been issued by District Administration.”

The Noida district administration has also imposed prohibitory orders for the next two months.

This was announced after the police failed to control a protest at the DND toll plaza on Sunday.

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