Friday, February 26, 2016
WHY THIS GOOF-UP IN HARYANA? M.G. Devasahayam
The haste with which the Army was deployed in Haryana by airlifting troops to Rohtak is a serious matter. The Army is the last resort for quelling civilian riots, not the first one. What Haryana did is akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
In the midst of military operation to quell the Jat protest in Haryana there was an innocuous media report suggesting that Army personnel had been put under the command of BS Sandhu, Additional DGP (Law and Order). The report also said that the state government has asked the Army to be called in eight districts. In this matter the “Chief Secretary had spoken to the Army Chief and the Chief Minister to the Defence Minister”. The effort was to deploy the Army as soon as possible to control the situation.
This report went viral on the veteran’s email circuit with some senior officers, including former Generals, venting their spleen at the humiliation meted out to the Army by placing its men under the command of the police. Lt Gen (retd) SK Bahri shot off an angry letter to the Union Home Minister.
Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan, GOC, 1 Corps quickly intervened and clarified the position in an email: “The troops in Haryana are from 1 Corps, which I command and there is no question about they being under anyone’s command other than mine… I visited them yesterday and today the Army Commander was with them. We have a commander in each district commanding his troops. The police assist us in identifying local people, tracks and disturbed areas.”
This assuaged the veterans and the anger faded away. But the bitter fact is that there is a huge trust deficit between the government and the veterans, which is also has a ripple effect on serving soldiers.
This is not in national interest. The Haryana government seems to have goofed up the entire handling of the situation.
The provision of the Army in aid of civil authority is governed by Section 130 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). This legal clause states that decision to requisition “armed forces” to disperse “violent assembly of people,” which cannot otherwise be dispersed by the police or other forces available, should be taken by the “Executive Magistrate of the highest rank,” which is the District Magistrate, called the Deputy Commissioner in Haryana. Such Magistrate “may require any officer in command of any group of persons belonging to the armed forces to disperse the assembly with the help of the armed forces under his command, and to arrest and confine such persons forming part of it as the Magistrate may direct, or as it may be necessary to arrest and confine in order to disperse the assembly or to have them punished according to law.”
Law also says that “every such officer of the armed forces shall obey such requisition in such manner as he thinks fit, but in so doing he shall use as little force and do as little injury to person and property, as may be consistent with dispersing the assembly and arresting and detaining such persons.”
Law and the standard operating procedure are clear. District Magistrates are the competent authority to requisition the Army as the local situation demands. After requisition, when the situation is handed over to the Army by a written order from the Magistrate, the Army is entirely in control with the officer-in-command in charge. Only that the Army is expected to bring the situation under control quickly and hand it back to the civil authorities and exit the scene.
The Army presence, at best, should be just about for a week.
Under no circumstance can the Army be placed under the command of the police. This is an essential part of fair civil administration because the Army is expected to be totally impartial and unprejudiced while dealing with an explosive law and order situation, which might have arisen because of excess committed by the police resulting in a head-on confrontation with the rioting public.
Neither is there any provision for “bulk requisitioning” of the Army by the Chief Secretary or the Chief Minister directly dealing with the Army Chief or the Defence Minister. These are serious distortions that have crept into basic governance over a period of time due to civil servants pandering to the whims of politicians.
The haste with which Army was deployed in Haryana by airlifting troops to Rohtak is another serious matter.
Army is the last resort for quelling civilian riots, not the first one. What Haryana did is akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
What is strange is that Army Chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who belongs to Haryana, appears to have taken personal interest in this “show of extreme force.” As the Eastern Army Commander, he had taken more than four days to move the Army when Kokrajhar and a few other districts of Assam were burning from communal violence and the death toll had crossed 100.
District Magistrates there had requisitioned the force directly and the Army was already in deployment near district towns. Yet Suhag had cited procedures for the delay, which is contrary to the mandate of Section 130 CrPC.
There is a lurking suspicion that he may have become an unwitting accomplice to a well-manipulated plan to silence democratic dissent sweeping all over the country.
This has happened despite the presence of nearly 50 companies, or around 5,000 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in the state, in addition to over 60,000 Haryana policemen, including Special Armed Police based in Madhuban near Karnal. In addition, there are several other paramilitary forces with huge strength whose services could have been requisitioned.
The Army Doctrine-2004 clearly defines its role in national security and maintenance of law and order. The primary role is to preserve national interests and safeguard sovereignty, territorial integrity and the unity of India against any external threats by deterrence or by waging war.
The secondary role is to assist Government agencies to cope with “proxy war” and other internal threats and provide aid to civil authority when requisitioned for the purpose.
Relegating the Army to its secondary role by constant troop deployment on internal security duties, dilutes the Army’s authority, corrupts ranks and compromises efficiency through lack of training.
Besides, over time soldiers of the Army are looked upon merely as riot controllers in olive green, losing the respect and mystique they traditionally enjoyed.
This also lulls the bloated civil police and paramilitary forces that continue to grow, but remain incapable of maintaining law and order.
Haryana’s proud Jat community reducing themselves to seek charity from the government in the form of quota is bad enough. But resorting to such violence and rioting is a permanent blur on this martial community. There must very strong socio-economic compulsions for Jats to take to this inglorious path. Powers that be in Haryana must learn one lesson from this royal goof-up.
That is, to properly diagnose the causes for this flare-up and take remedial steps before it is too late.
Letting loose the Army’s might is certainly not the answer.
The writer is a former IAS officer of the Haryana cadre - (who served a stint in the Army).
(Source- via e-mail from Carl Gomes Vet)