The Haryana government flouted high court directions, permitting lakhs of unruly elements to gather and hold large parts of North India at their mercy as the region descended into medieval-style chaos on Friday when lakhs of followers of the Haryana-based fraud godman Ram Rahim Singh of the Dera Sacha Sauda cult went on the rampage following his conviction for rape by a CBI court in Panchkula on the outskirts of Chandigarh. As many as 31 rioting cultists died in firing by the security forces and more than 300 sustained injuries. But Haryana Police watched passively as private buildings, vehicles on roads and media vans and personnel were attacked. Railway property was burned and attacked as far afield as Delhi.
Haryana and adjoining Punjab have been under a security lockdown since Friday morning. Section 144, which prevents the congregation of more than five persons at a time, has been clamped on parts of western UP and the national capital region, including Delhi, fearing the further spread of violence as the sentencing of Ram Rahim is to be done on Monday.
Friday’s shaming episode, if comparisons can be made, leaves in the shade the 2007 events in Rawalpindi when armed followers of the Lal Masjid or the Red Mosque wreaked havoc on Pakistan’s most important garrison town. Political parties have historically pandered to the cult-gurus in North India as the latter have very large followings which can be converted into votebanks. The BJP has been especially solicitous of Ram Rahim, with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar going to pay obeisance to him with his whole Cabinet after he, an RSS outsider, was chosen to head the state government by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally.
The PM also praised the fake godman for showing enthusiasm for the Swachchh Bharat campaign, unmindful of the fact that he had allegations of rape, murder and enforcing castration against him.
The Haryana government comprehensively failed in taking even the first steps to maintain law and order. It disregarded the injunction of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to take preventive steps to stop the godman’s followers from gathering in huge numbers when the verdict was to be read out. After the Friday chaos the High Court was constrained to describe Ram Rahim being taken to jail as “political surrender”.
Two of the “sadhvis” who refused to be cowed down and doggedly pursued their rape case for over a decade, are to be admired, as are the CBI trial court judge and the high court judges for staying tough.
The Khattar government deserves to be dismissed for making a mockery of law and order. Haryana needs a spell of President’s rule....