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How a clerical error led to Ram Rahim’s Dera supporters swamping Panchkula, sparking mob violence

Two prohibitory orders were issued ahead of the verdict in Panchkula, one on August 18 and another on August 22. But neither of them barred the assembly of five or more people and only restricted people from carrying weapons.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2017 17:07 IST
Surender Sharma
Surender Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Sirsa‬,‪Dera Sacha Sauda‬‬,Dera Sacha Sauda‬
Security personnel looks at burning vehicles set alight by rioting followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh convicted of rape in Panchkula on August 25.(AFP Photo)

A ‘clerical glitch’ by the Haryana government was likely responsible for the widespread violence after the rape conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh that left 31 people dead. (Live updates)

Two prohibitory orders were issued ahead of the verdict in Panchkula, one on August 18 and another on August 22. But neither of them barred the assembly of five or more people and only restricted people from carrying weapons.

This allowed a massive build-up of supporters of the flashy leader that swelled to about 200,000 on the morning of the conviction on Friday. This mob went on a rampage minutes after the conviction was announced in the afternoon, damaging government offices and torching vehicles.

“..There is a clerical mistake in the order dated 22.08.2017 regarding prohibition of assembly of five or more persons in the area of Panchkula,” the state advocate general BR Mahajan told the court on August 24, the day a fresh order was passed.

But the August 24 order, issued a day before the verdict, was violated with impunity and proved to be no use as authorities failed to even evacuate followers from heart of city, which later became the epicenter of the violence.

Experts said if the order had been rectified on August 22, when the number of followers was around 20,000, the violence could have been contained.

The “mistake” came to light after the high court took up a public interest litigation (PIL) on August 24 and asked Haryana to produce a copy of orders by the end of day to ascertain how the crowd swelled despite ‘prohibitory orders’ against assembly.

First Published: Aug 26, 2017 16:24 IST