Central intelligence officials today accused the Haryana government of ignoring three days of alerts about possible violence, recklessly allowing Dera Sacha Sauda followers to assemble in tens of thousands, and failing to adopt adequate crowd-control measures when the violence erupted.
“The state government’s slumber and lax administration was the main reason behind the senseless violence. The government sat on actionable intelligence and allowed the congregation,” a senior security official said.
Sources in the security establishment said the Haryana government had been cautioned three days ago about a possible backlash if the Dera chief was convicted of rape, and advised to stop the entry of outsiders.
“But the Khattar government chose to ignore the alerts, allowing the unprecedented congregation of the so-called devotees brandishing swords, clubs, firebombs and other lethal weapons while the cops looked the other way,” a senior Intelligence Bureau official said.
At least 30 people were killed and 250 injured in widespread violence, arson and police firing in Haryana triggered by the conviction.
In a late-night development, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar inspected the places damaged by the protesters in Panchkula. He also visited Civil Hospital and met the injured. Deputy Commissioner of Police Ashok Kumar was shunted out of his post in a late-night development.
Addressing the media hours after violence broke out, Khattar admitted the lapses, but asserted that appropriate action was being taken. “This should not have happened…. Lapses have been identified and we are taking appropriate steps,” Khattar said.
The CM, ducked a question on how thousands of Dera Sacha Sauda followers managed to reach Panchkula despite Section 144 being imposed much earlier. He said the damage caused to some media personnel’s equipment during the violence here will be taken care of the government.
Six buildings, including the government offices of Hartron, Haryana Bhoomi Vikas Nigam, Bhartiya Life Insurance (Bhartiya Jeevan Beema Nigam) and State Consumer Forum located in Sector 2 and Sector 4 were damaged, and around 40 vehicles, including government and private, were torched.
Five fire brigade vehicles, one ambulance and six police vehicles were among the vehicles burnt. Four OB vans of electronic channels, school buses, and privately owned motorcycles and cars were also burnt.
Meanwhile the Centre has asked the Haryana government to provide adequate security to CBI special court judge Jagdeep Singh who convicted Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a rape case. The home ministry told the Haryana government that CBI special Judge Jagdeep Singh should be provided highest level of security in view of the threat perception after he delivered the verdict against the Dera head.
“CBI special judge Jagdeep Singh is a very competent, tough and upright judge with a no-nonsense attitude”, that is how Singh is described by his colleagues in the legal fraternity.
The Home Ministry will analyse intelligence inputs before deciding whether the judge’s security needs to be handled by a central force, such as the CRPF or CISF, an official said. Ironically, Ram Rahim, a rape comvict now, enjoys ‘Z’ category security.
Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who has been convicted of rape, has close affiliations with all political parties, including the ruling BJP government of Haryana. At least three senior state ministers in the BJP government in Haryana ,Ram Bilas Sharma, Anil Vij and Grover have together gifted the Dera Sacha Sauda leader Rs 1.12 crore.
The state education minister, Ram Bilas Sharma, had made a public spectacle by gifting Rahim a cheque of Rs 51 lakh recently. In August 2016, the health and sports minister Anil Vij also announced a huge donation to the Dera at its headquarters in Sirsa, Haryana.
Just a few days after Vij’s huge gift to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, another Haryana state minister, Manish Grover, donated Rs 11 lakh to the Dera from his ‘discretionary funds’ as well.
BJP’s embarrassment was further eroded , which is in power in violence-hit Haryana, when party MP Sakshi Maharaj presented a bizarre defence for Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh who has convicted of rape. In a classing case of blame-the-victim, the Lok Sabha MP said, “Who is right? Crores of people who see god in Ram Rahim or that girl who filed a complaint? Accusing a noble soul like Ram Rahim (sic).”
He further said the case was an attempt to “malign Indian culture”. He went on to blame the court for the violence that had erupted soon after Rahim was convicted. “There is so much of ruckus over it, law and order has been disturbed, people are dying… Shouldn’t this be a consideration,” he added.
In the wake of the violence unleashed by Dera Sacha Sauda followers, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will chair a high-level meeting, which will also be attended by the chief ministers of Haryana and Punjab, to take stock of the situation in Panchkula and nearby areas.
Rajnath Singh, who rushed to his office directly from the airport after arriving from Kyrgyz Republic, will also meet top home ministry officials, chiefs of paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condemned the Dera Sacha Sauda violence, terming it as “deeply distressing” and urged everyone to maintain peace. PM Modi, who reviewed the situation with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, said the law and order situation is being closely monitored. “Urged officials to work round the clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required,” he tweeted.
The Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh expressed shock that “the situation was allowed to escalate by the Haryana government”.
“The trouble could have been averted had the Dera supporters been stopped from aggregating in one place,” he said, adding that the Haryana government should have stopped trains and buses from reaching Panchkula, just as Punjab had done.
“Preventive and precautionary measures should have been taken in time,” he said, adding that it was the responsibility of any state government to maintain law and order.
In his appeal broadcast through television and on social media, Amarinder Singh exhorted the people of Punjab not to get provoked by rumours and to respect and accept the court orders. He assured the people that a tight blanket of paramilitary and police forces was in place across the state to ensure their safety and security.
The chief minister spoke to Union home minister Rajnath Singh and defence minister Arun Jaitley to apprise them of the situation. He also spoke to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the situation in Punjab and informed her of the steps taken by his government to maintain peace in the state.
The Army was called out and curfew was imposed in 10 districts of Punjab’s Malwa region, home to a large number of Dera Sacha Sauda followers, as violence spread to the state following the conviction of the sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a rape case on Friday.
The districts under curfew are Sangrur, Moga, Bathinda, Muktsar, Ferozepur, Faridkot, Barnala, Patiala, Fazilka, and Mansa. The Punjab government has called out the Army to help maintain peace in these districts over the next 24 hours.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah questioned why pellet guns and human shields were not used to control mob violence in Haryana. The National Conference leader however unconditionally withdrew his tweets, without deleting them, following the reports of rising death toll.
“Although I’d tweeted it before any deaths took place I can’t help feeling that my tweet about the pellet guns is inconsiderate & misplaced,” he said. He also demanded sacking of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, stating that the latter had enough time to prepare before the situation got out of hand.
After the violence broke out in Panchkula on Friday, the Chandigarh Administration announced that all schools and colleges (government, private, aided, unaided, technical) in the city would remain closed on August 26.
On Friday, most of the petrol pumps and markets remained closed fearing violence. In Panchkula, all educational institutes were already closed till Monday. Traders in Panchkula decided to open their shops on Saturday but in the event of some disturbance, they would shut their shops.
Travel Advisory has been issued by Canada and the United Kingdom. The Advisory has asked their citizens travelling to India to exercise a high degree of caution following the widespread violence after the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
“Following the conviction of a prominent sect leader on August 25, 2017, tensions remain high in the States of Punjab and Haryana, and various other areas…. If you are in one of the affected areas, limit your movements and monitor local media for the latest information,” according to an advisory issued by the Canadian government.