DAYS AHEAD of Panchkula’s Black Friday, reporters of The Indian Express repeatedly asked Haryana officials why, when prohibitory orders were in force, they were allowing Dera followers to assemble in the town ahead of the verdict in the CBI court in the rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim. The office of this newspaper is located barely 500 mts from the district court complex, and we could see the crowds swelling by the hour. For us, it was not just a developing news event. We were worried about the security of our office and safety of our staff.
The officials treated the reporters with condescension: “The prohibitory orders are only for weapons”. Why not assembly? “Because this gathering is unarmed”. Then why call in the paramilitary? “Precautionary measure”.
What was obvious to 24-year-old reporters, and every other resident of Panchkula, was clearly not so for the officials. Or they had deliberately shut their eyes. Otherwise what can explain this excuse when the Punjab & Haryana High Court asked them the same question. “Clerical error”, was the response to their lordships. It simple took the breath away.
That answer deserves to go down in history as a shining example of the ease with which those entrusted with the job of governance and administration can shrug off responsibility and accountability. It deserves to be taught as a case study at Harvard Business School as an example of Indian jugaad. And they quickly found a bakra too. A lowly DCP has paid for this so-called “clerical error” even though its magnitude clearly demands bigger heads. The court appears to have seen through the humbug though, and has been unrelenting in its demand for answers from the Haryana government.
Once the damage was done, officials wanted the media to look on the “positive side”. A police official told a senior journalist at this newspaper: “See how quickly we brought it under control, otherwise you can imagine the fires that would have raged”. Well, thank you so much, Mr Senior Police Officer of Panchkula, but remember that old joke? Operation successful, but patient dead. In this case, 38 people dead.
Had it been a more responsible government and administration, it would have gamed the situation, and would have realised back on Saturday, August 19, when dera followers swarmed the Sector 1 district court complex and the police were caught completely off guard, where it was all leading. No one need have died to bring the situation under control. Or was there some other plan behind allowing all the people to come and settle down around the court complex? Six days is a luxurious amount of time to plan for anything. Sorry, it is difficult to see the positive side. All one is left is with a feeling that we are truly ruled by incapable persons.