Haryana's response to dalit attacks irks panel

New Delhi, September, 1
: A parliamentary panel has questioned the rationale of single-member judicial inquiry commission set up by Haryana government to probe the attacks on dalits in Mirchpur, noting that a multi-member panel with a Scheduled Caste member would be better placed to give an unbiased report.

It marks a vote of no confidence in the state's follow-up action on Mirchpur riots which have painted Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in a corner.

The committee, which visited Mirchpur on July 2, expressed strong displeasure that many accused were still not arrested. It asked the state to nab them fast and initiate timebound action. Besides, it asked the state to provide security to witnesses.

While CM Hooda came under serious attack from within Congress and outside for his handling of Mirchpur case, the committee on the welfare of SCs/STs has attested the state's lackadaisical attitude in dealing with the case.

In its report tabled in Lok Sabha on Monday, the committee felt the attack, in which a man and his handicapped daughter were burnt to death, could have been avoided if preventive measures were taken following the tension between Balmiki and Jat communities in the village. There were raw nerves after an argument over a barking dog had led to a confrontation. A riotous mob set dalit households on fire on the third day.

The panel slammed the police for the "long delay" in arresting the culprits and for allowing the "dominant Jat community" to hold "Mahakhap panchayat" in Mirchpur despite simmering tension following the attacks.

The committee even called Mirchpur part of a pattern, noting that there were other incidents in Haryana that "shook the minds" of its members. The panel pointed out that the SHO in Mirchpur was the same officer under whose watch SCs were made to strip in 2005.

The committee's scepticism on the inquiry commission is seen as buttressing its suspicion that the administration was favouring the dominant Jats.

Arguing that inclusion of an SC member in the probe panel would bring out a report "free of bias, omissions and commissions", the committee noted, "A multi-member commission would have been in better position to do justice to the victims and throw better light on the whole issue."

While Mirchpur has attracted attention from across political spectrum -- visit by Rahul Gandhi and letters to CM from Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Union home minister P Chidambaram and a protest letter to the President from UP CM Mayawati -- the committee headed by G C Naskar of Trinamool Congress summed up the attacks as Jat community's way of asserting dominance on the hapless Balmikis.

As a remedial measure, it asked the police to be "motivated to gain confidence of Balmikis" and to dispel the notion that it was biased towards the Jat community.

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