The widespread violence in Panchkula and other places in Haryana following the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim has left Manohar Lal Khattar government in a tight spot. At least 30 people were killed in the violence by the supporters of Dera chief as paramilitary troops and police personnel deployed outside special CBI court before the judgment failed to prevent the crowd buildup and the resultant mayhem. Though Khattar appealed for peace to Gurmeet supporters, his request fell on deaf ears as the violence spread all the way to Delhi where an empty train was set on fire at Anand Vihar station, prompting the authorities to put the national capital on high alert and impose section 144 in the NCR region.
The question that arises now is who should be held accountable for the loss of lives, grave injuries and damage to property? Is it the supporters who are so blinded by their faith that they fail to accept the ruling of a court of law? Or the government which looked the other way when the followers of Ram Rahim were building up in Panchkula?
In fact, the government failed to act despite reminders from the judiciary on what it should do. A day before the judgment, Punjab and Haryana court rapped the Khattar government for not imposing Section 144 on time and allowing the Dera supporters to gather in huge numbers in Panchkula. “Why was assembly not prohibited,” asked the court, adding that “proper order under Section 144 could have debarred the assembly of people”. The court had clearly told the state government that it doesn’t want a Jat agitation like the situation in Haryana and asked the Centre to deploy additional forces. But it was too late as more than 50,000 of Ram Rahim’s followers congregated at Naam Charcha Ghar in Panchkula area. And the snapping of mobile, internet service had little impact on the supporters who were ready with hockey sticks, baseball bats, lathis and brick bat to go to any extent if the verdict goes against their beloved Dera chief.
As the CBI court delivered its verdict, the supporters went on a rampage damaging public property and attacking mediapersons. They set on fire several vehicles, buildings and railway stations damaged media OB vans. Taking strong exception to the violence, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that the losses caused to property due to violence and arson will be recovered from Dera Sacha Sauda. The full bench of the High Court also directed the Haryana government to use weapon or force, if required, to tackle the situation arising out of the CBI court verdict against the Dera chief.
The Panchkula mayhem only suggests that the Khattar government has failed to learn any lessons from the Jat agitation last year. Its slow response, poor strategy and lack of decision making ability makes the state vulnerable to such frenzy outrage.
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