Haryana govt surrendered to mob: HC

A day after Dera Sacha Sauda followers ran riot in Panchkula following the conviction of the organisation's chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh by a special CBI court for the rape of his sadhvis, the Punjab and Haryana high court has indicted the M L Khattar government in Haryana for “surrendering“ its administrative authority to a mob just to keep its vote bank happy. While 31 Dera followers were killed in firing by paramilitary forces on Friday, the toll rose to 36 on Saturday. Gurmeet faces a minimum of seven years in jail and a maximum of life imprisonment.
“It was a political surrender just to allure the vote bank,“ a full HC bench comprising Justices S S Saron, Surya Kant and Avneesh Jhingan said during a special hearing. Holding the state's political interference in policing responsible for the ma yhem, the judges added, “There is a sea of difference between administrative and political decisions; administrative decisions were paralysed because of political considerations.“

A number of lawyers in the courtroom said the government had “accommodated“ the Dera chief because he had supported the BJP during elections.The bench then said the CM and the PM represent the state and the country, not a political party. The judges were visibly upset over the violence and deaths in Panchkula. They also expressed surprise over Haryana CM Khattar's statement to reporters on Friday that some anti-social elements had mingled with Dera followers and were behind the violence. “It appears to be an intelligent way to say that Dera had not done anything,“ the bench observed, telling state advocate general Baldev Raj Mahajan, “Your CM is also the home minister of the state. If he could find out that some anti-social elements were involved in the violence, why could he not prevent such a large gathering from entering Panchkula? You allowed them to occupy and damage public property. Those responsible for such losses should be answerable.“

Dera counsel S K Garg Narwana also submitted that some anti-social elements had created Friday's violence. The bench then observed, “Followers hold entire Panchkula town as well as the country to ransom. Despite assurance of maintaining peace, you shattered the peace, vandalised property and then you claim innocence. Don't try to fool the court.“

The HC also asked all the deputy commissioners in Punjab and Haryana to identify Dera's assets and submit a list in court for their attachment. No Dera property should be sold, transferred, alienated or encumbered in any manner, the court directed. The list should include incomes, bank accounts and properties.

Of the five deaths on Saturday, two were reported from a hospital in Chandigarh and three from Sirsa. On Friday, the government gave orders to fire at the Dera rioters after Panchkula deputy commissioner Gauri Prashar found herself surrounded by an angry mob. Dera followers in Punjab's Malwa region also went on the rampage after the conviction. Curfew was imposed in Patiala, Sangrur, Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Fazilka and Ferozepur districts in Malwa where the Dera has a huge following. The followers targeted government service centres in many Bathinda villages. A railway station near Bathinda was torched.

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