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Khattar didn’t call me up to stop dera followers from entering Panchkula: Punjab CM

Refuses to endorse party’s demand for Khattar’s resignation; both states failed to prevent built up despite intelligence inputs

punjab Updated: Aug 27, 2017 12:32 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Panchkula,Haryana,Dera violence in Panchkula
Chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday patted his government’s back for faring better than the neighbouring Haryana. (PTI)

The battle of one-upmanship continues between Punjab and Haryana even as the two states burned on Friday, following the verdict against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a rape case.

Though the Punjab government too is being blamed for “mismanaging” the situation before and after the verdict against the dera head, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday patted his government’s back for faring better than the neighbouring Haryana.

Questioning his Haryana counterpart’s sense of judgement, Amarinder said: “The violence was expected. It was a mistake to allow people to converge on Panchkula. What can 200 cops do before lakhs of people? We had intelligence that they had weapons. We knew of their preparedness and searched all 98 naam charcha ghars of the dera and seized petrol bombs and other such items,” he said.

He, however, refused to toe the line of his party, which is seeking the resignation of Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar. “Khattar’s resignation is an internal matter for the BJP and it is for the party leadership to decide on it,” Amarinder said, while addressing the media here.

Defending his government on not preventing the build up of followers from Punjab into Panchkula, he said: “Did Khattar call me up to stop people from entering Panchkula or his director general of police call up his Punjab counterpart or his chief secretary call up Punjab chief secretary? Was it written on their vehicles that they are dera followers?”

But Amarinder admitted that talks were held between Punjab and Haryana intelligence officials if not CMs and police chiefs. Punjab DGP (intelligence) Dinkar Gupta later told HT that three meetings were held this month between the two states to tackle the law and order situation anticipating violence after the court verdict.

“The first meeting was held on August 13 in Chandigarh, second on August 16 in New Delhi with Union home minister Rajnath Singh and a third, two days before the August 25 verdict of the court,” Gupta said.

Yet thousands of dera followers came from Punjab into Panchkula through Zirakpur and Banur. They were ferried back in its buses after they fled from Panchkula.

“I am being asked on Facebook why did I provide them buses to go back. We did it to prevent the irate followers from causing more damage on way back,” Amarinder said even as Gupta added that 50% of these followers were women and children walking on foot with slippers in their hands.

Despite being all geared up, the Punjab government was unable to prevent burning down of fuel stations, railway station, telephone exchanges and suvidha kendras. Here too, the government is taking consolation in Haryana’s losses.

“The damage to public property is not much. It is not likely to be more than Rs 40 lakh,” Punjab DGP Suresh Arora later said.

But the CM said he will bill the damages and submit the list in the Punjab and Haryana high court, which has told the dera to pay for the vandalism. Till then, the CM has another task at hand. “I will be touring areas of Punjab from Sunday to thank my police force and people for keeping the situation peaceful,” he added.

KEEPS MUM ON DERA SUPPORT

The Congress had also courted the Sirsa dera till the 2012 polls and Amarinder had himself been in touch with its head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. On Saturday, the CM chose to duck questions on both him and Congress seeking dera support in previous elections and whether his party would distance itself from the dera now. “I can’t reply for the past or the future. It is for the party to make a policy at the national level. Maybe, the political attitude will change now,” is all he said.

First Published: Aug 26, 2017 21:48 IST