Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh: From 'baba of the bling' to rape convict

Anarchy in Panchkula: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's conviction

Nothing shows up the ineptness of the state more than unpreparedness in the face of predictable events. In allowing tens of thousands of followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect to gather for a show of strength when their leader, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was awaiting a judicial verdict in a rape case, the Haryana government abdicated its responsibility of maintaining law and order, and protecting life and property. Prohibitory orders were not enforced, with the government evidently viewing the looming protests as pressure relief valves instead of as trigger points for violence. In the absence of preventive detention where appropriate, and of restriction on movement and assembly in public spaces, matters spiralled out of control once the court pronounced the cult leader guilty of rape. True, mob violence is difficult to control without resort to extreme force, but in this case the government seemed to rely entirely on the good sense of the sect’s followers. It failed to foresee violence on such a large scale, and no viable security plan was in place until after several hours of lawlessness. Despite intelligence inputs about the Dera followers storing fuel, and knives and stones, the government machinery was woefully slow to react. Neighbouring Punjab and Delhi also witnessed violence, but the preparedness of the law enforcers were of a higher order in both those areas. Punjab saw better coordination between the Army and the police, with action being taken at least ten days in advance. Of course, the supporters had gathered in greater numbers in Panchkula and Sirsa, the headquarters of the sect, in Haryana; even so, nothing remotely credible can explain the inadequateness of Haryana’s response to Friday’s mayhem.

 

Religious sects such as the Dera Sacha Sauda that command a huge following are often handled with kid gloves by governments as they can deliver votes in blocks. Senior BJP leaders, including ministers, have often been seen seeking the blessings of the Dera leader. This is what must have prompted the Punjab and Haryana High Court to come down hard on the Manohar Lal Khattar government for its “political surrender” to the Dera vote bank. Although the remarks are political in nature, and quite unusual coming from a court, they reflect the growing perception that politicians are often in nexus with religious leaders and cult figures. Three years ago, in Hisar, another godman, self-styled “jagat guru” Sant Rampal, defied the police for several days, evading arrest in a contempt case. In that instance, his followers countered the police with Molotov cocktails and acid pouches. Clearly, godmen and cult leaders believe they are above the law. It is for the government and law enforcement agencies to disabuse them of that notion, especially when, as in the case of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, they face charges of rape and murder.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 8:15:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/anarchy-in-panchkula/article19571267.ece

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