On Friday self styled “godman” Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan was convicted by a special court of the CBI in Panchkula for raping and sexually exploiting two of his disciples in 2002. Soon after the verdict, the angry followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim including those who were present in large numbers outside the courts, went on a rampage.
Within moments the streets of Panchkula were turned into a virtual warzone with the followers vandalising public property which included setting a petrol pump ablaze, vandalising vehicles with sticks and stones, beating up journalists and even even vandalising a 5 star hotel. The violence was not restricted to Haryana. Reports also claimed that railway stations in Malout and Balluanna in Punjab were partially burned down, a power station in Mansa Punjab was attacked. Violence was even reported in Delhi with the mob setting ablaze two empty rakes of Rewa Express at Anand Vihar railway station.
The security forces as a result started to strongly deal with the adverse situation. After initially watching helplessly, they stepped up their action by first using tear gas shells, pellet guns and finally even taking the help of real guns and ammunition. Reportedly as a result of the whole confrontation, at-least 31 people were killed (29 in Panchkula and 2 in Sirsa) and 350 had sustained injuries. Reports also claimed that about 500 warring followers have been detained by the police. The Punjab police too cracked down on the mobs and a curfew was imposed in 10 districts of the state’s Malwa region.
Incidentally such a huge spurt of violence was surprising considering there were various reports which indicated that the Punjab and Haryana state governments were aware of a possible law and order situation arising after the verdict. According to reports, Punjab and Haryana were placed on high alert from Wednesday itself and prohibitory orders were also issued. Elaborate security measures were also implemented in sensitive areas with 5000 police persons reportedly being deployed at sensitive and vulnerable points for maintaining peace. To name a few more preparations, apart from the police, even the paramilitary forces were deployed in Punjab and Haryana, 1000 police persons who were used to protect VIPs were recalled and even leaves were cancelled.
So questions might be raised as to why and how did the violence assume such a scale when the security personnel were so thoroughly alert. Now certain reports are claiming that even after all the preparations, there indeed were administrative lapses which allowed the followers to wreck havoc. The Haryana administration reportedly watched the crowd swell during the buildup to the verdict and later couldn’t control the whopping 2 lakh supporters who had swamped Panchkula.
Reports even claimed that Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had admitted to the lapses and asserted that appropriate steps were being taken. According to him, the size of the mob created the problem. He also reiterated that amount to compensate for the loss of property would be recovered from the property of Dera Sacha Sauda. He also claimed that criminals had infiltrated the crowd but had no answer when asked as to how did so many followers reach Panchkula even though section 144 was imposed. Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh whose state too witnessed large scale violence, didn’t pull back from questioning as to why did the Haryana government not stop the followers from congregating in one place.
Questions now might also be raised as to could the 31 odd deaths have been prevented had the government been successful in preventing the heavy violence and as to why did such lapses take place even after such elaborate preventive steps were undertaken.