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Violence after Baba Ram Rahim conviction: How Khattar failed on three occasions in as many years

Large-scale violence has struck Haryana for the third time in three years. All these three incidents have taken place ever since ML Khattar was sworn in as chief minister of the state on October 26, 2014.

At least 10 people had died in the Rampal case in November 2014 while 30 had lost their life in violence during the February 2016 Jat agitation in the state.

Massive violence has followed the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on Friday by a special Panchkula court, holding the Dera Sacha Sauda leader guilty of rape.

The situation deteriorated soon after the conviction was announced and Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was taken into custody. There have been about 300 incidents of violence reported from across Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi. So far, 31 people have died and about 250 have been injured in the violence which ensued after the court verdict.

The Haryana government seems to have failed for the third consecutive time in assessing the situation while allowing the law and order situation to drift.

The date for today’s hearing was known much in advance. Besides, there were proofs of Dera Sacha Sauda and Baba Ram Rahim galvanising supporters. They had even posting their messages on the social media for the last few days.

There were intelligence reports too fearing violence. But the Khattar government did not take adequate measures to ensure that violence did not erupt.

The Haryana government could have imposed prohibitory orders in Sirsa, Panchkula and adjoining regions or areas of Dera Sacha Sauda’s influence.

Secondly, the government state government should not have allowed Baba Ram Rahim to travel from Dera Sacha Sauda’s headquarters in Sirsa to Panchkula as a hero. There were over 100 cars in Ram Rahim’s convoy.

The government should not have allowed more than half a dozen vehicles, including those carrying Ram Rahim’s relatives, staff and security personnel, to accompany him. The remaining vehicles should have been detained. Third, the Khattar government should have called more security forces to man Sirsa and Panchkula. It should have made adequate arrangements in other cities as well.

Unfortunately, Khattar apparently had not learned despite the two earlier incidents in which his government had to face major criticism following violence.

The epicentre of violence in the wake of Baba Ram Rahim’s conviction has been Haryana. The violence, which started from the, has spread to adjoining Punjab, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Hence, a large part of the blame for the violence needs to be shared by the Khattar government.

RAMPAL CASE

In the Satlok ashram supremo Rampal’s case too, the Haryana government had ample time to make sufficient arrangements to take on the rogue self-declared godman.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had issued a non-bailable warrant against Rampal. Scores of Rampal’s followers including militia clashed with para-military forces and the Haryana Police killing 10 people in November 2014, just a month after Khattar government had been sworn in. Rampal’s followers resorted to firing, stone-pelting and hurling of acid and petrol bombs from within the ashram. There was a 30-hour standoff. In the end the security forces managed to arrest the controversial godman from his ashram.

Security forces arrested at least 200 members of the militia that was guarding the Satlok Ashram. Three of Rampal’s key associates were also arrested. Those arrested included Rampal’s son and brother, besides Satlok Ashram spokesperson Raj Kapoor.

About 70 Rampal followers, most of them his ‘private commandos’, who had indulged in violence, were arrested. According to reports, Home Minister Rajnath Singh was unhappy with the way the Khattar government had handled the issue.

JAT AGITATION

As many as 30 people were killed and property worth crores was damaged at many places in Haryana during the February 2016 Jat stir which had turned violent. Rohtak and some of its neighbouring districts, including Sonipat and Jhajjar, were the worst hit by the violence last year.

Besides the loss of lives, damage to property – both private and public including roads, canals, railway stations, police stations – illegal felling of trees and violation of human rights took place in Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonipat, Jind, Hisar, Kaithal and Bhiwani.

The role of state government officials, including police and civil departments, came under the scanner as the government completely failed to stop the violence during the period.

Mass rape and molestation cases were also reported in Sonipat district.

The community had been agitating for according OBC status to them for several years. However, they targeted non-Jats for the first time.

According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), the damage was to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore but other industry sources quoted a figure of Rs 34,000 crore. Reportedly, 33 buses had been set on fire and 99 others were partially damaged. Out of 387 LPG companies, 185 are out of stock. More than 25 petrol pumps had been damaged.

Chevrolet and Hyundai showrooms around Rohtak were burned down and in total, more than 200 cars that were in stock had been set on fire. The Munak Canal was also damaged.

Here too the Khattar government was accused of mishandling the situation, failing to make a correct assessment of the situation and taking adequate measures in order to stop violence from taking place.

Today, in the Ram Rahim case, Khattar has defended himself saying that the Haryana government had made complete arrangements but “the mob was really huge”. This argument is unlikely to be accepted by the Opposition and the people in general. In the days to come, it will not be a surprise if the Opposition demands Khattar’s resignation.

 

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