Day before Panchkula burnt, DCP’s suggestion to deploy army went unheeded

In August 24 letter to DC, DCP Ashok Kumar, since suspended, said with a large number of dera followers camping in P’kula, possibility of violation of law and order was high; recommended that army be called in

punjab Updated: Sep 03, 2017 09:27 IST
Ram Rahim,Dera violence,Pamchkula violence
A soldier looks at a car damaged in arson, a day after the August 25 violence in Panchkula. (REUTERS)

Was it possible to avoid the violence in Panchkula that claimed more than lives after the rape conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on August 25?

A letter of Panchkula’s since-suspended deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Ashok Kumar has surfaced in which he alarmed the civil administration boss, deputy comomissioner Gauri Prashar Joshi, and urged to call in the army to maintain law and order a day before the verdict. But that was not done even though more than 1 lakh supporters of the Sirsa-headquartered sect had assembled in the town ahead of the judgment day.

Since the day of the violence and the action by security forces — including the army that was eventually called in — the local administration has been busy patting its back, claiming that DC Joshi saved the town by requisitioning the army soon after the clashes broke out between dera followers and the police and paramilitary. But, off the record, top police officials said calling in the army in advance could have been more effective.

Now, HT is in possession of the letter dated August 24 in which DCP Kumar mentioned that with a large number of dera followers from different states camping in Panchkula, it was not possible to control them, and that the possibility of violation of law and order was very high. “In view of this, I recommend that army be called to maintain law and order,” were his words.

In the letter, he also apprehended that deployment of paramilitary was insufficient as only 13 companies had reached that day. And that was not the only letter he wrote. In a follow-up in the evening, he went on to say that all the existing resources of the police were exhausted.

While the role of the dera chief’s core team is under investigation for allegedly instigating the violence, DCP Kumar is the first and only major casualty so far when he was suspended for alleged dereliction of duty. As per an estimate, properties worth Rs 10 crore were vandalised in Panchkula, including burning of a hotel, bank, and several government buildings.

When HT sought to contact DC Joshi on Saturday, calls and text message went unanswered. Sources close to her said she began efforts to seek army’s requisition as early as August 19 but “could not manage deployment in time”.

President of the local citizen welfare association, SK Nayyar, when contacted, said, “It does not matter how officials exchanged correspondence. The fact remains that Panchkula was already in turmoil when clashes broke out. This clearly reflects the complete failure of governance here.”

First Published: Sep 03, 2017 09:12 IST