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Dera Sacha Sauda violence: Panchkula picks up pieces as anger simmers

Residents seethe at how police and administrative inaction gave a free hand to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s followers

punjab Updated: Aug 29, 2017 12:03 IST
Vivek Gupta
Vivek Gupta
Hindustan Times, Panchkula
Dera violence,Panchkula violence,Dera Sacha Sauda
The army carrying gout a flag march in Panchkula on August 28.(HT Photo)

Peace has been restored in Panchkula, where followers of a rape-convict guru ran riot last week, but locals say their anger at the administration is unlikely to fade.

Followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the leader of cult Dera Sacha Sauda, destroyed public and private property in a rampage that began minutes after he was convicted for raping two women. The epicentre of the unrest — which crippled Haryana, parts of Punjab and the national capital, was Panchkula where Singh’s followers had started to amass days before the verdict.

SK Nayyar, president of citizen welfare association, said the first major blunder was made by the office of deputy commissioner and local police heads by allowing Dera followers to scramble inside Panchkula for days. By the time they realised that numbers were uncontrollable, the situation had already gone out of control, he said.

“The political leadership might have helped Dera followers to assemble here but the officers also did not show integrity and buckled under pressure rather than doing their duty,” he added.

A social activist from Sector 2, Seema Bhardwaj, said even a layman on the roadside would have known that the crowd will go into a frenzy if their leader was convicted.

“This is precisely what happened on Friday but the authorities responsible for the city’s safety remained incompetent,” she added.

Bhardwaj opined that the so-called ‘babus’ and ‘men in khaki’ had put the people’s lives in danger and left them disgruntled.

“Just the suspension of DCP Ashok Kumar is not sufficient,” she said, seeking others responsible to be taken to task.

The lack of coordination between administration and police authorities came to the fore as sources said that both diverged from the main cause. Suspended Panchkula deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Ashok Kumar asserted that better coordination was required to tackle the huge crowd gathered inside the city.

Rampal, a security guard at Panchkula Golf Club in Sector 3, where a large gathering had assembled, told HT that there was a big tent pitched in the middle of the park from where, messages to instigate the crowd were blaring through the speakers.

“But police did not react in time which came as a blow to the law-and-order situation,” he added.

DEPLOYMENT ‘UNPLANNED’

The Sector-16 arson is a clear example of a botch-up in planning. Ashish Kumar, an employee at Exotica gym that suffered a major loss, said there were no policemen or paramilitary force present when Dera followers vandalised and burned a bank and one hotel in the market.

“I saw police vehicles passing from there quietly rather than helping us,” Kumar said.

As reported by HT on Monday, the four-minute CCTV footage from Aggarwal Bhawan in Sector 16 showed how a mob vandalised the buildings and threw petrol bombs before leaving.

“An adequate deployment of security forces could have avoided the loss here,” said RP Verma, a manager at Aggarwal Bhawan.

Many believed the situation could have been different if the army took over the city much before the dera followers assembled.

Sources said the deputy commissioner, Gauri Prashar Joshi, sought the army’s presence on August 19 but could not manage it till the night of August 24.

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 10:39 IST