Now focus on other crimes committed by Gurmeet Ram Rahim and Dera associates
If this sentence serves to break the stranglehold of this dera and others like it on the popular imagination, not to mention on politicians across the board, then this would be a healthy precedentUpdated: Aug 28, 2017 19:29 IST
His pleas for leniency, his protestations that he had been framed and other theatrics cut no ice with the CBI judge who handed down a harsh sentence to the once all-powerful Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda.
However, in a case of forewarned being forearmed, the authorities kept a tight lid on things with a massive deployment of forces, shoot on sight orders and unequivocal warnings to his supporters who had run riot when the guilty verdict was pronounced in a 15-year-old rape charge against him.
The CBI was pushing for the maximum possible sentence. Now that the sentencing is over, the authorities can focus on other things connected with the dera. One is the land it has encroached upon, the other is the massive structures it has built without authorisation. The most dangerous is the stockpile of sophisticated weapons within its premises, clearly with the intention of taking on the law-enforcers if need be.
Political support and popular appeal had allowed the flamboyant so-called spiritual leader to play the role of kingmaker in elections, the latest being the last assembly elections. But certain rules have been rewritten here.
The authorities are now of a mind to attach the dera’s properties to pay for the damage wreaked by Singh’s followers last week. The Punjab government has also refused to pay compensation for those who died in the violence on the grounds that they were in violation of the law and the state could not be responsible for them.
Now it would be appropriate to investigate the dera’s financial affairs and other crimes which have allegedly been committed by Singh or those close to him. If this sentence serves to break the stranglehold of this dera and others like it on the popular imagination, not to mention on politicians across the board, then this would be a healthy precedent.
While the extreme security measures may have warded off any violence today, the authorities must not let down their guard in the days to come as his supporters are likely to be smarting under this blow. A strict surveillance should be kept on the many branches of the dera and on other similar institutions in the state.
Singh has paid the price, even though it can be argued that it is too little too late. But the state authorities in Haryana, which failed in their duty to prevent the mayhem unleashed by his supporters, have got off far too lightly.
First Published: Aug 28, 2017 17:30 IST