Free Press Journal

Manohar Lal Khattar bungled, but he won’t go


stats  36 dead, property worth crores lost, but BJP stands by its party chief minister.

Chandigarh : A day after Panchkula and large swathes of Haryana burnt and goons of controversial self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh took over the streets of the state, killing 36 people and destroying property worth crores, the Punjab and Haryana High Court came down heavily on the central government saying the Prime Minister is of the nation and not the BJP alone.

The court made the stinging observation as the Centre and Haryana government came under intense scrutiny for administrative lapses after Gurmeet Singh was convicted in a rape case. For several hours on Friday, it was a free for all as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda went on the rampage, burning vehicles, targeting journalists and setting fire to everything in their path while the cops looked on.

On Friday night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the violence and appealed for peace. “Instances of violence are deeply distressing. Strongly condemn violence urge everyone to maintain peace,” he tweeted.

But the court termed the Centre’s response to the violence “only a knee-jerk reaction…Why do you (the Centre) treat the region as colonies?” asked a full bench of Acting Chief Kustice S.S. Saron and Justices Surya Kant and Justice Avneesh Jhingan. “National integrity is above parties. Are we one nation or a party nation?” the court responded after additional solicitor-general Satya Pal Jain argued that such violence had happened in states ruled by other parties.

The court also criticised the BJP government in Haryana for “politically surrendering” to the Dera Sacha Sauda, which claims to have 50 million followers across northern India and is understood to wield considerable political clout. “This was a political surrender to lure vote banks…they were outsiders, you allowed them to enter and stay,” said the three-judge bench.

The court told the government to attach properties of the Dera so that the damages to properties could be paid.

As the clamour for Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s resignation grew from all quarters, the BJP leadership threw their weight behind its man on the hot seat, saying there was no question of replacing him. BJP chief Amit Shah came out in defence of the Haryana chief minister, saying he cannot be blamed for the violence.

Khattar belatedly admitted lapses and said his government made arrangements but the mob was too big. He also blamed “miscreants in the crowd” for the violence. But the court was not convinced with his comments. “If the CM came to know in a day about antisocial elements, why couldn’t you prevent their entry over the past seven days,” the bench asked.

Some heads did roll. The state government on Saturday suspended the Panchkula deputy commissioner, holding him responsible for the administrative lapses. The Khattar regime also sacked the Haryana deputy advocate-general Gurdass Singh Salwara after he carried the luggage of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was flown in a chopper from the Panchkula court premises to a prison in Rohtak.