Supporters of Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s Dera Sacha Sauda react during the violence in Panchkula, on August 25, 2017.(Reuters Photo)
Supporters of Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s Dera Sacha Sauda react during the violence in Panchkula, on August 25, 2017.(Reuters Photo)

‘PM is of India, not BJP’: Haryana HC takes Centre to task over Panchkula violence

The high court called the PM Narendra Modi-led government’s reaction to the violence “only a knee-jerk” one, dismissing the argument that the havoc occurred in different states ruled by different parties.
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Shailee Dogra
UPDATED ON AUG 26, 2017 08:15 PM IST

The Prime Minister is of the nation and not the BJP, the Punjab and Haryana high court remarked on Saturday as riots engulfed two states after controversial “godman” Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of rape.

The court made the stinging observation as the Centre and Haryana government came under scrutiny for administrative lapses after at least 31 people were killed and property worth millions of rupees were damaged in riots that broke out on Friday when the Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief was convicted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the violence and appealed for peace.

“Instances of violence are deeply distressing. Strongly condemn violence urge everyone to maintain peace,” he tweeted.

But the court termed the Centre’s response to the violence “only a knee-jerk reaction”.

“Why do you (the Centre) treat the region as colonies?” asked a full bench of acting chief justice SS Saron and justices Surya Kant and Avneesh Jhingan.

“National integrity is above parties. Are we one nation or a party nation?” the court responded after additional solicitor general Satya Pal Jain argued that such violence had happened in states ruled by other parties.

It also criticised the BJP government in Haryana for “politically surrendering” to the Dera Sacha Sauda, which claims to have 50 million followers across northern India and is understood to wield considerable political clout.

“This was a political surrender to lure vote banks … they were outsiders, you allowed them to enter and stay,” said the three-judge bench.

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar has been drawing flak for letting nearly 200,000 followers of the controversial but influential spiritual leader to gather in Panchkula before a CBI court in the township held him guilty of raping two women 15 years ago.

These people ran riot once the judgment was pronounced — clashing with security forces, and burning and damaging property and cars.

Khattar admitted lapses and said his government made arrangements but the mob was too big. He also blamed “miscreants in the crowd” for the violence.

But the court was not convinced with his comments. “If the CM came to know in a day about antisocial elements, why couldn’t you prevent their entry over the past seven days?”

The state government suspended on Saturday the Panchkula deputy commissioner of police for the lapses.

The high court observed that the officer was made a “scapegoat” and sought an investigation into the shoddy security arrangements that failed to control the rampaging mobs.

The security arrangements were in tatters as masked men streamed into neighbourhoods with sticks and stones, forcing to outnumbered policemen to retreat. Forces responded with tear gas shells, batons and finally, firing.

As the violence spread from Punjab and Haryana to Rajasthan, New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the high court ruled that the Dera would pay damages and sought a list of its properties.

The court asked deputy commissioners in Haryana to submit lists of Dera’s movable and immovable assets, its bank accounts and incomes. Dera properties across Haryana were sealed on Saturday.

From schools to shampoos and hair-oil to hospitals, the self-styled guru runs an empire under the brand name MSG. Often called the guru of bling for his flamboyant lifestyle, the Dera chief who studied up to Class 10 runs 11 schools and two colleges, including a management institute.

The Dera also has factories for confectionery products in its 800-acre headquarters on the outskirts of Sirsa in Haryana.

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