In three years of its tenure in Haryana, at least 72 persons have been killed in police-public clashes in the state. This includes 36 who were killed by the armed forces on Friday (30 in Panchkula and six in Sirsa). But, for the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government, yesterday’s operation was a “success”. Despite severe criticism by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for its inept handling of the entire dera episode that eventually led to violence and utter chaos in Panchkula and Sirsa, the state government has been patting its own back.
Mincing no words in castigating the state government and even the Chief Minister, the High Court’s full bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Justice SS Saron, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Avneesh Jhingan even told the Haryana’s Advocate General BR Mahajan in open court Saturday that the Chief Minister was “protecting the dera”. But, for the state government, they handled yesterday’s incident “well”.
Highly placed sources told The Indian Express that top brass of the state government received Chief Minister’s appreciation last night for doing a “good job” in overpowering the agitated mob in a limited span of three hours. They said three top officers of the state government were present at Chief Minister’s residence last night where they had dinner and Khattar appreciated the police response and handling of the incident.
Sources said it was only after Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted last evening and “strongly condemned” the violence in Haryana that Khattar left his residence and reached Panchkula. He visited the buildings that got damaged in the three-hour-long violence and also met the injured at Panchkula’s civil hospital. However, at the party level, the BJP has not sought any explanation from Khattar on the incident.
The state government had conveyed the law and order situation to the Union government, as a matter of routine in case of any such exigency. In a tweet on his Twitter handle, Khattar announced last night that he had briefed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the law and order situation in Haryana. Sources said at least three top ministers of the Khattar cabinet were in constant touch with the Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and his coterie till the night before the CBI court pronounced him guilty verdict in the rape case.
One of the three ministers told The Indian Express that the dera chief had assured them he would abide by the court’s verdict and that his followers would not indulge in violence. “We told him to respect the verdict to be pronounced by court of law. Although he assured us that his followers shall maintain peace and calm, but we were skeptical of his response. Thus, the government made adequate arrangements and proceeded according to the law,” the minister said.
State’s Chief Secretary DS Dhesi, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas and Director General of Police BS Sandhu said Saturday that all “standing operating procedures”were followed by the state government. “Whatever effective action was required to be taken, was taken in three-and-a-half hours. There was no violence after that,” Ram Niwas told mediapersons here today.
DGP BS Sandhu added that “no innocent person was killed in the police firing”. The Chief Secretary, DS Dhesi, however, said that “the government shall look into and take adequate measures in case of lapses, if any, that took place during yesterday’s operation”. The state government is now keeping a close watch on Monday when the CBI court would pronounce the quantum of sentence to the Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Because of the law and order issues, the verdict on the sentence shall be pronounced in Sunaria jail at Rohtak where Dera chief is currently lodged. As far as Khattar is concerned, the BJP appears in no mood to replace him or ask him to step down.
BJP’s general secretary and party affairs in-charge in Haryana, Dr Anil Jain, on Saturday met BJP president Amit Shah and senior leader Kailash Vijayvargiya in New Delhi and briefed them about the prevailing law and order situation in Haryana. Sources disclosed that during the meeting that lasted for nearly an hour, it was decided “not to summon” Khattar for any clarifications.
Khattar has maintained a complete silence since Friday and was yet to issue any official statement. The only official statement he issued was on Friday, in which he had asked dera followers to maintain peace and keep calm. That appeal too was issued barely a few minutes before the CBI court held Ram Rahim guilty of rape.