By Odisha Story Bureau, Bhubaneswar:
Guidelines and SoPs for harmony not followed
The Odisha Human Rights Commission has sought a report from the Government of Odisha over allegation of not following guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) set by Union Ministry of Home affairs by the police, administration and higher level officials at state level to build communal harmony that leads to a riot in Bhadrak in April, 2017.
Acting on the petition filled by the rights activist Mr. Akhand of Civil Society Forum on Human Rights, Bhubaneswar the Commission has directed Principal Secretary of Home Department and Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Central) to submit report regarding the matter within four weeks.
Here it is noted that Communal tension between two communities in Bhadrak leads to violence and more than 500 shops were ablaze in the Bhadrak City during on 6-8 April.
The Petition said, “The District Police and Administration, Intelligence and higher Government officials in State level have not done their duty properly to avoid such a riot situation. They have ignored the ‘Guidelines on Communal Harmony’ by Ministry of Home affairs. These Guidelines are circulated in 2008 to Chief Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories.”
According to “Guidelines on Communal Harmony” by Ministry of Home affairs, “At the State level meetings of the State level Integration Committee, under the Chairmanship of the Chief Minister, may be held at least once in a quarter to review the communal situation in the State.” But there were no meetings of State Integration Committee by the Chief Minister for years together, alleged Akhand.
The Guidelines said, “As preventive measures, the District Administration should carefully assess the communalsituation in the District on a regular basis and prepare a profile of the District. They should identify and specifyareas which are prone to communal sensitivities and tensions.” But, it is not done in any area and not also in Bhadrak.
The District Administration should anticipate possible developments that can happen on certain occasions, or indifferent kinds of situations, and prepare detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and contingencyplans to deal with them, so that escalated situation/riots, etc., could be pre empted/prevented. But it is not followed by the administration in Bhadrak.
According to the Guidelines, “Details of sensitive areas should be systematically maintained at each police stationconcerned. The Station House Officers and other senior officials at the police station level should keep a close watch on the situation in such areas, apart from periodically visiting them for promoting public contact and interface with the civilian population and community leaders.”
The Guidelines also said that “At the field level, Police and the local intelligence agencies/ institutions best knowthe elements who have a record of, or could be expected to, create communal rifts, directly or indirectly. A listof such elements should be readily available in all Police Stations. During festival season, or on any otheroccasion when communal tensions, or possible incidents of a communal nature, are apprehended, immediatesteps should be taken to isolate such elements, including preventive action against them wherevernecessary. But no action was been taken in this regards, said the Petitioner.
Akhand added that, so the duty bearers of the state are not doing their work properly and as a result of huge property including shops and three religious institutions were damaged in the three-day spate of violence.
The petitioner had prayed for action against the public officials who those are ignored the guidelines in the matter.