The violence unleashed by Dera Sacha Sauda supporters in the immediate aftermath of the conviction and arrest of Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on Friday last was highly condemnable. But even more so was the abject surrender to the goons by the Hayana government which allowed thousands to congregate in Panchkula where the CBI court’s verdict in the rape case involving Ram Rahim was delivered and to wreak havoc on innocent residents. Accountability for such gross mishandling of an event has to start from the top.
By that token, the State’s Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, does not deserve to be in the coveted saddle for one more day. He miscalculated and misjudged the reaction of the Sacha Sauda supporters who had gone to Panchkula with violence in their head, and apparently believed the assurances of the Godman that his cadres would not resort to violence. There was indeed a perceptible softness of approach for which innocent people paid with their lives and property. Residents of Panchkula who were witness to the ghastly events insist that the miscreants were well-prepared and both the local police and the para-military forces showed appalling dereliction of duty. It was the army which, with a mere 350 soldiers, controlled the situation from turning uglier.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann ki baat’ radio address on Sunday whose crux was that violence in the name of faith was unacceptable, would indeed ring hollow if the Chief Minister is not removed in pursuance of the principle of accountability. It is on the lips of the entire media and the citizenry that this was a clear case of the BJP having had a soft corner for the Godman and his sect. It is common knowledge that the State government was indebted to Dera Sacha Sauda for having supported it wholeheartedly in the last Assembly elections. In the preceding elections it was the Congress that was the principal beneficiary. With an estimated five crore supporters, the dera was a formidable vote bank.
But that did not mean that the State administration did not have a responsibility to protect the people from lumpen crowds that went berserk. The ghastly events in Panchkula and some other strongholds of Sacha Sauda have drilled fear in the minds of people at large. Horrible memories of the sect’s supporters going on the rampage will live on in people’s minds for a long time. If the Modi government is to make amends and win back the trust of the people even partially, it must act fast. Not only must the chief minister be sacked and replaced by a person of unimpeachable public goodwill like Sushma Swaraj, the miscreants of that day must be punished for their misdeeds without fear or favour. Above all, the BJP and the Congress in particular must learn a lesson from the events of that fateful Friday not to sacrifice public interest at the altar of political expediency and vote bank politics.