‘The district administration failed and it was a very costly failure.’
Yashovardhan Azad, now retired from the Indian Police Service, has served as Special Director, Intelligence Bureau.
Currently, chairman of DeepStrat, a think-tank involved in risk assessment, mitigation, cybersecurity, policy research and advisories, Azad tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com that the district administration acted too late and too little to prevent the communal violence in Haryana’s Nuh district and contain the spread of communal conflagration thereon.
What do communal incidents like these tell us about the law and order situation in Haryana?
From just one incident you can’t make a comment on the law and order (situation in a state). But yes, on this specific incident one can say that all the three sides are to be blamed totally.
First, when there was a lot of tension building up to this yatra and there were too many social media messages coming back and forth, back and forth from the VHP side, from the interested yatris’ side and also there were counters from the other side.
In fact, one of them was a Congress MLA.
When guys like Monu Manesar or Bittu Bajarangi say that they want to participate in the yatra, it is obviously going to draw a very immediate reaction from the other side.
So when all this (tensions between the two sides) was going back and forth in such situations, I think the district administration should have played a firm role.
They should have got the IP addresses (from which the two sides were posting incendiary messages on social media), they should have arrested these two (Manesar and Bajarangi) because in any yatra you cannot allow suspects — though they are not named in any FIR — allow accused to accompany the yatra. This is not done. I mean as district administration you have to be responsible.
Secondly, whenever you have a yatra of this kind in a communally sensitive area, or even otherwise, you call the yatra organisers and decide on the route.
You can take a route that passes through mosques. That is okay. But there should be no threatening postures; there should be no carrying of arms, there should be no idiotic actions like playing hugely incendiary kind of messages or passions being raised through sloganeering.
Once you have decided on that, then on the other side you should have called a peace council meeting (of both the yatris and Muslims residing en route the yatra) and told the Muslim community also that listen, this is the yatra, this is the route, this is what we have organised (the police force to prevent any untoward incident) and you also better behave yourselves. And if you do anything wrong, then we’re going to take very strong action.
Once you have done this, only then you allow a yatra, which was not done because you have seen that the (Nuh) SP (Varun Singla) was on leave and the RAF (Rapid Action Force, the CRPF’s anti-riot unit) which was there just two kilometres away and there were the usual complement of security which was accompanying them.
Then the last point is when the stone throwing started from the Muslim side there should have been very heavy handed action. Nobody can do this.
If the yatra (or yatris) was creating a problem you should have taken heavy-handed action against them as well. But they (the district administration) abdicated (their duty) at that time and by the time (action was taken) it became too late.
It just flared up and once it happened there (near the temple at Nuh), then the reaction started in other places where the other community was strong and that’s how the cyclical reaction took place.
I would hold all the three culprits responsible, but (there have been) glaring gaps in the action by the district administration.
The violence is continuing unabated even to this day. Mosques are being set on fire and there is communal tension across the Mewat region.
Do you think the district administration and state government have been found wanting in taking stern action?
It’s easy to say that you should take action but you have lakhs of people, they are spread out in various areas.
Something happens in Sohna, something happens in Palwal, something happens in Gurgaon it’s very difficult to control it right at the bud and also very difficult to do investigation at the same time and catch people.
There are 30 plus 20 additional companies (of the Rapid Action Force) which have been posted there. They are actually looking only at maintaining some kind of peace and (maintaining) law and order.
But as I said, it’s often seen that the communal conflagration, unless you nip it in the bud, take very hard, decisive action at the point of conflagration, there is going to be a cyclical reaction.
And this (communal violence) may go on for two-three days because wherever (any) community is strong, their angst (is) expressed against the so-called richer class; their shops will be burnt, malls will be burnt, restaurants will be burnt.
Another thing which I must say is that any kind of a communal flashpoint like this there are people who are unwanted elements who get in.
Look at the cybercrime police station which was attacked in Nuh — and one of the reasons is because heavy handed action against these cyber frauds, who were looting people through online frauds (was taken by the cybercrime sleuths from this cybercrime police station in Nuh), and this headquarter was recently shifted to Nuh from Jharkhand.
So even those people (cyber frauds) also joined in and there was an element of preparation because stones were there, there were other weapons which were there, firing was done, magistrate’s vehicle was also not spared.
I would say the district administration failed and it was a very costly failure. Now there are mopping up operations — first is investigation, catching all those criminals.
Second is to maintain law and order and third is to take heavy handed action against those who have caused defacement of public property.
How do you expect the state government and district administration to move now and what measures could help bring back normalcy in the Mewat region as soon as possible?
First is that you should give an impression that you are absolutely fair and in an unbiased manner go to various places, anybody creating trouble, take a very heavy handed action — lathi charge (them) or whatever, just bring them to the police station.
Once (both) the communities know that you are fair (they will cool down) and then immediately call for a peace council meeting.
There are elders; there are people who are already members (of such peace committees); you can have them (the peace committees) police station wise. They already have IPS officers, they have been allocated to police stations and they can immediately do it over there.
Secondly, the state government, the chief minister and the home minister should make a call and appeal for peace. That’s very important. But the most important part is the political executives should stop patronising lumpens, who are good for nothing.
They are just busy bodies creating trouble.
Bittu Bajrangi and Monu Manesar were quite active on social media posting incendiary messages and claiming that they will be themselves present in person during the yatra that got the Muslims in Mewat charged up as they are accused in the murder of two Muslim cattle traders in Bhiwani district.
Should the state government and district administration have acted at that point and taken some action against these two men wanted by the Rajasthan police?
They (Bajarangi and Manesar) said that they will join the yatra and therefore there was a counter-reaction from the other side (Muslims of Nuh). But the district administration should not have allowed anybody to take the law in their own hands.
Whether it’s Monu Manesar or Bittu Bajarangi or whoever; it doesn’t matter. Fine, it’s the job of the district administration, but you (the Muslims of Nuh) can’t stop a yatra and start throwing stones on them.
It’s not that they are rosy coloured on the other side. It was a pitched battle and both sides had to be blamed.
The biggest blame should be of the district administration which didn’t care to take action when the tension was building up and later at that particular point when decisive action was called.
Do you fear such communal conflagration spreading to adjoining districts in Haryana given that the state is poised for an election next year?
I don’t think any government or party would want this kind of communal riot with destruction on such a large scale. I don’t think human beings have descended into (being) animals. No, I don’t think so. Nobody would like such a communal riot.
In fact, when we were there (as part of the police force), even if they (the politicians) liked, no SP worth his salt will allow this kind of thing.
We were scared of two things during our times: One was death in police custody and second was a communal riot. It (such acts during one’s tenure) completely blots your career.
Yes, there are lumpen elements (in the police force) who want to instigate these things, but they should be taken care of.
I can also say that the SPs and collectors will take care of them (such lumpen elements in the police force).
Do you, as a former special director, the Intelligence Bureau, feel that communal tensions in India pose a security challenge for the country?
The communal tension anywhere (in the country) can be immediately controlled by the district administration. You should deal it with a heavy hand and it can completely be defused. You shouldn’t allow it to carry on.
It’s not that in one state it happens and it will also happen in the other states.
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