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Amarinder-led Punjab govt was in touch with dera before and after Panchkula flare-up

Secret pact? CM’s aide assured Dera Sacha Sauda’s political wing of ‘government help’’ dera later sought buses for ferrying followers back home

punjab Updated: Sep 10, 2017 09:44 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Capt Amarinder,Dera Sacha Sauda,Gurmeet Ram Rahim
Dera followers in Panchkula had gone on a rampage after Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted. (REUTERS)

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh had patted his back and blamed his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar for “failing to prevent build-up” of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda ahead of the special CBI court verdict that found its head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of raping his two women followers.

But an audio conversation reveals that one of Amarinder’s three political secretaries was in touch with dera political wing head Ram Singh, and assured him of “government’s help”, if needed, a few days before the August 25 verdict. The followers in Panchkula had gone on a rampage after the dera head was sent to jail, leaving 39 dead.

In the recorded conversation, one of the members of the dera’s political committee, Ram Karan, is heard telling a former follower of the dera that they had approached the Amarinder government for buses after the Panchkula arson and the state government had provided conveyance on their request.

“We later thanked the CM and his aide for the help,” Ram Karan is heard saying in the conversation. Sources in the government admitted that a “backdoor channel” of communication was opened with the dera’s political wing to assure them that the government will not allow radical Sikhs to “take advantage of the situation and prevent them from causing damage in Punjab”. There have been many incidents of clashes between the dera followers and radical Sikhs after Gurmeet Ram Rahim donned the robe of 10th Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, in 2007 and later after the highest Sikh temporal body, the Akal Takht, pardoned him.

On why did the Punjab government not stop dera followers from entering Panchkula through Zirakpur in Punjab and later provided them buses when they were fleeing Panchkula after the clashes, Amarinder had said Khattar never called him to stop them (followers) and he gave them buses to prevent them from “causing more damage on their way back”.

Most of Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s close aides, including Honeypreet and Aditya Insan, have gone underground. ( HT File )

Notably, the followers damaged some of the buses and state transport director Bhupinder Singh had said they left two drivers injured.

Even as Haryana burned, Amarinder patted his government’s back embarking on a tour a day after the violence with his team in two state choppers to distribute apples to security forces and policemen for keeping Punjab “peaceful”.

While most of Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s close aides have gone underground, including Honeypreet and Aditya Insan, Ram Karan, a resident of Bhawanigarh, has not even been questioned by the Sangrur police. Sangrur senior superintendent of police (SSP) Mandeep Sidhu said 14 incidents of violence were reported in Sangrur, 104 were named, of which the police arrested 76 people. “The name of Ram Karan has not figured in our investigation, which is still on,” Sidhu told HT.

Punjab Police are only after those who caused arson in the state, but not Punjabis who were present in Panchkula. A dera follower confirmed that Ram Karan was present in Panchkula during the mayhem. “All the Punjab and Haryana police need to do is check the mobile tower location of Ram Karan and other members of the dera management and call them from questioning. But they have only issued lookout notices for Honeypreet and Aditya who were captured by the TV cameras,” a dera follower said, requesting anonymity.

Roads to Sirsa dera sealed after a week

There are no “shocking” recoveries so far from Dera Sacha Sauda’s Sirsa headquarters after the Haryana government has initiated its sanitisation and search under the court scrutiny, two weeks after the August 25 violence at Panchkula.

While curfew was clamped in areas near the old and new dera headquarters in Sirsa, the access roads to the dera from the villages bordering it — Nejia, Bajekan, Ali Mohammad, Begu and Arniawala — were not sealed completely and men and vehicles were seen moving out of the area during late hours. Even a few media teams had reached the dera through the village route.

Also, the police had asked the dera to surrender arms. Sirsa superintendent of police Ashwin Shenvi had told HT that all the arms surrendered were licensed weapons and all the three gunhouses searched by the police belonged to kin of members of the dera management or followers. But the late sanitisation and sealing of the village roads have raised questions if the Khattar government too allowed the dera management time to “santise” itself.

First Published: Sep 10, 2017 09:42 IST