Ram Rahim case: Haryana govt saw crowd swell, didn’t act before it was too late
Administrative lapses allowed followers of controversial sect leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to rampage through Panchkula on Friday as Haryana’s BJP government misread the build-up before a court convicted the man of rape.
Starting with a trickle since a week ago, about 200,000 supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief swamped Chandigarh’s satellite township where the CBI special court is located. They ran amok after the verdict, torching vehicles and damaging property.
Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar admitted there had been lapses and promised to “compensate for the losses”.
“Haryana government made arrangements, but there was a huge mob ... He (Dera chief) has lakhs of followers in the country and in the state. We tried to stop them,” he said.
Also, he didn’t entirely blame the Dera people for the situation getting out of hand. “Some miscreants entered the crowd,” he said.
At least 30 people died in police firing to quell the violence, which spread to parts of northern India, including New Delhi.
The opposition demanded Khattar’s resignation for the deaths and violence. State Congress chief Ashok Tanwar said government failed miserably in handling the sensitive situation.
“The chief minister must resign … The situation went out of hands in Panchkula because of the government’s failure. The government should have dissuaded the Dera followers from assembling in such large numbers.”
Haryana’s leader of the opposition, Abhay Chautala, said Friday’s violence exposed the BJP government’s ineptness in handling law and order.
The BJP government appears to have learnt no lessons from the 2014 Satlok Ashram violence and the Jat stir for reservation in jobs and education in February 2016.
At least 30 people died in clashes during the Jat stir that rocked Rohtak and parts of Haryana.
In 2014, six people were killed as followers of another popular religious leader, guru Rampal, fought pitched battles with police attempting to arrest him over a murder trial.
Congress leader Kiran Choudhry said the BJP government abdicated its responsibility and left law-abiding citizens at the mercy of miscreants.
“It is high time the Khattar government takes charge. It is the third occasion when it has badly let down the people. The way things happened point to total failure of the state government,” she said.
According to a retired bureaucrat, who didn’t wish to be named, no political party wants to antagonize the flamboyant 50-year-old Dera chief because his large support base.
He claims to command a near-devotional following of 50 million people and is sought out during state and parliamentary elections.
The BJP is said to have benefitted from the Dera’s generosity in the 2014 general elections. And a top leader of the sect announced at its headquarters in Sirsa before this year’s assembly polls in Punjab that it would support the BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal alliance.
(With agency inputs)