The first intelligence input came on February 4, and the last desperate alert was sent out by Rohtak IGP Shrikant Jadhav on February 18. Over the next four days, Haryana burnt, with destruction on a scale that a distraught Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar himself likened to Partition.
As details begin to emerge of Haryana’s descent into chaos over 19 days, the picture that emerges is of an entire chain of command frozen into inaction, with one reason cited repeatedly: the order not to deploy force against the protesters.
The first intelligence inputs are conveyed directly to Khattar, indicating that the Jat call for an agitation be taken seriously. On February 9, a meeting is held of senior officers of the Chief Minister’s Office and Haryana Police. The intelligence inputs are dismissed as “routine”, with bureaucrats and a few ministers expressing confidence that a planned meeting between Khattar and leaders of Jat groups would defuse the situation.
The February 9 meeting is partially successful, with the group led by Hawa Singh Sangwan calling off the agitiation. However, the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti’s Yashpal Malik remains determined to go ahead.
On February 12, the Malik group blocks the railway tracks at Mayyar in Hisar.
During a previous protest held at Mayyar, in 2012, a local Jat community member had died in police action. An IPS officer, Subhash Yadav, is still being tried for murder for that.
So police stay away, even as, they admit, there are enough intelligence inputs by now that the Jats were ready for a statewide agitiation.
Protesters begin the blockade of NH-10, squatting on the Rohtak-Delhi highway in Sampla. Police divert the traffic, to avoid any confrontation.
“There are strict instructions from the government not to engage protesters,” says a senior officer.
Khattar comes to Rohtak to attend the oath-taking of newly elected sarpanchs and panchs. As the CM is about to get into a chopper to leave, Rohtak IGP Jadhav alerts senior officers accompanying him that the “ongoing agitation may get bigger”.
But senior police officers and bureaucracy remain confident the situation will cool off. Again a message is conveyed to all district administrations “not to engage protesters”.
That day, the government also announces a four-member committee headed by the chief secretary to assess the Jat reservation issue and submit its report by March 31.
However, when Agriculture Minister O P Dhankar goes to meet representatives of protesters who have blocked NH-10, the talks fail. Later that day, Capt Man Singh Dalal, head of the Dalal Khap (another Jat faction), tells The Indian Express that the blockade would not be removed until the government assures them of reservation.
The blockades spread to other parts of Haryana, including Rohtak, Jhajjar, Jind (all under Rohtak range) and Sonepat. Still under instruction not to use force, police divert traffic from the highways to internal village roads. Later, the protesters start blocking the alternative routes as well.
By February 17, Rohtak and Jhajjar are cut off from the rest of Haryana, amidst intelligence inputs that the protesters would also soon block the Delhi-Chandigarh stretch of NH-10 as well as the New Delhi-Ambala railway track.
By evening that day, senior police officers order police station in-charges to start registering FIRs against protesters blocking roads and railway tracks.
The government decides to seek paramilitary help, and three BSF companies start marching towards Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonepat. The company that arrives at Rohtak is stationed at the police lines.
The road blocks continue and Rohtak starts running out of essential commodities, including petrol.
A senior government officer says the nature of the protest starts changing. “We began receiving reports on the agitation taking a communal colour.
There were instances of communities clashing. The mob was swelling and there were reports that many among them were carrying arms,” the officer says.
Late in the evening, a police party led by SP (Rohtak) Sourabh Singh, a DIG-rank officer, attempts to lift the blockade on the Rohtak-Jind highway.
The crowd starts pelting stones, and Singh orders his men to disperse the mob using force. However, police are overpowered and have to take refuge along with the SP in the Rohtak circuit house.
This is when Rohtak IGP Jadhav, whose office shares a boundary wall with the circuit house, sends out a WhatsApp message to DGP Yashpal Singal.
“The situation is getting worse. There is widespread resentment amongst other sections of society. There can be clashes between Jats and other sections of society. Essential commodities are hit. This has the potential of turning into a civil war,” he wrote, seeking more men, including commando units and Rapid Action Force.
Getting no response, he sends the same message through the official WAN (Wide Area Network) to the DGP. Singal reportedly still doesn’t get back.
Asked about the two messages, Singal says, “I would not like to say much on it as it is a matter of inquiry… Truth will come out. I have to see the total availability of forces in the state. I have to assess how much force I can give to which district. The maximum cake was given to Rohtak.”
Meanwhile, scared policemen spend whole of that night inside the circuit house, surrounded by the mob.
By morning, the crowd has swelled, even as a similar situation is brewing at Agro Mall, a few hundred metres away. DSP Amit Bhatia and Inspector Manoj Verma, who have been held hostage by a crowd outside Maharshi Dayanand University since morning, have managed to escape and taken refuge inside Agro Mall. The deputy commissioner, Rohtak, and IGP, Rohtak range, send additional forces to rescue the two officers, which takes another couple of hours.
By 1.30-2 pm, there are armed protesters massing at the circuit house. “The mob starts pelting stones and it looks as if they are about to rush into the circuit house and lynch the police personnel inside,” a police officer and one of the witnesses tells The Indian Express.
Situation critical, IGP Jadhav climbs up to the terrace of his office and fires gunshots in the air. It is about 2.30 pm. The mob steps back for some
time. Jadhav also calls up the Jhajjar SP to ask him to reach Rohtak with his men, and tells the BSF company at the police lines to rush to the
But the peace is short-lived. “After gunshots were fired in the air from the IGP office, a news flash appeared on one of the Hindi TV channels saying ‘firing at protesters from IGP’s office’. Within minutes, there were mobs marching towards the circuit house and IGP office from all directions… Sourabh Singh and a few of his men had to scale the wall and enter the IGP office using a ladder thrown by Jadhav. At the same time, a crowd swarmed Agro Mall and torched it. After that, they targeted (Finance Minister) Capt Abhimanyu’s residence and set portions of it, parked cars on fire,” a senior police officer says.
Finally in Chandigarh, alarm bells ring. The state government calls up Delhi, asking for the Army and more paramilitary forces.
By 5.30 pm, Rohtak range police officers receive a message that the Army and paramilitary are on their way. The troops are brought in by helicopters as all roads into Haryana are blocked.
The state government also deputes two senior officers, IAS officer AK Singh and IPS officer B S Sandhu, to Rohtak to act as liaison between the Army and district administrations.
About 6.30-7 pm, the BSF company reaches the cicuit house. Jadhav is on the phone with DGP Singal when he hears stones being pelted at the BSF by the crowd, followed by sounds of gunshots. As one BSF jawan is hit, the force opens fire, injuring a few of the protesters.
A couple of hours later, Jhajjar SP Sumit Kumar reaches the Rohtak IGP office with around 200 men. But no sonner has he arrived that he hears the situation in Jhajjar has gone out of control. Kumar rushes back to Jhajjar taking along only a few of his gunmen. Later that night, hundred-odd men are sent back to Jhajjar from the Rohtak IGP’s office.
DGP Singhal insists there was “total coordination”. “I have been told there has not been a bigger air movement of forces of this nature…. Eighteen helicopters were inducted… That is the kind of coordination we did.
Meeting with the cabinet secretary was held through video-conferencing. Whatever was possible was done, there was no delay. The way we moved the Army, paramilitary forces, it was a miracle. The CM made all efforts to get forces.”
Around 8 am, senior Rohtak range police officers A K Singh, B S Sandhu, Shrikant Jadhav and Sourabh Singh and others meet to formulate a strategy.
Jadhav arrives for the meeting dressed for the field, armed and wearing a bullet-proof vest, but is asked to take the next available IAF chopper out of Rohtak. Sources say it is hinted that Jadhav, a Dalit, could have had a “meltdown” the day before as he feared for his own life.
The IGP waits for three hours before being finally airlifted to Rohtak and then to Hindon Air Force station, Ghaziabad. He lands there still in uniform.
On 22nd, Jadhav, known as “the (Ashok) Khemka of the Haryana Police”, who led the investigation into the AIPMT test-paper leak scam in 2015 and unearthed a multi-crore VAT refund scandal, would become the first and senior-most officer to be removed from his post for the violence. He was transferred to the Haryana police training centre in Karnal. Three days later, he was placed under suspension.
Departmental enquiries are on against him now and two other suspended DSPs. No reasons have been given for the suspensions, but Jadhav, sources say, stands accused of “panicking” and “mishandling” the situation in Rohtak.
The violence worsens and continues to spread, with arson, looting and communal clashes reported from several places. The Army takes time to reach
and has to be airlifted in. There are communal clashes in as many as eight major cities, with the toll hitting 30. On February 22 morning, protesters
clash with armed forces at Ladsauli village, Sonepat. Four die when the forces open fire.
But by 1.30-2 pm, traffic resumes on NH-1 and Jats begin retreating.
Khattar’s schedule Feb 4-19
The CM, along with his ministers, was busy holding road shows across cities for ‘Happening Haryana Global Investors Summit’, scheduled for March 7.
* Feb 5: Visits Surajkund Mela.
* Feb 6: Addresses the 6th 21-Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally and Concours Show, 2016. The rally was held to spread the message of Beti
Bachao Beti Padhao.
* Feb 12: Addressing a Saraswati Mahotsava Samaroh, declares that Saraswati Janmotsava would be celebrated as an “international festival” in 2018.
Attends oath-taking ceremony of zila parishad and panchayat samiti members.
* Feb 13: Releases the DVD of Janaki, a short film on Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign.
* Feb 14: Attends road show in Mumbai seeking investments for the state, and visits the Haryana Pavilion at the Make in India event there.
* Feb 15: Announces that a four-member committee would look into the issue of reservation being demanded by Jats, submit report by March 31.
* Feb 16: Invites Jat leaders for a meeting on February 17.
* Feb 17: Meets nearly 126 Jat leaders and heads of various Khaps at his residence. Announces that quota in government jobs and educational institutions in the state for economically backward classes would be increased from 10 to 20 per cent. Annual income ceiling for beneficiaries is raised from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh. Appeals to protesters to withdraw their agitation.
* Feb 18: Calls an all-party meeting the next day as situation remains tense.