Violence over Ram Rahim rape conviction: 5 questions Khattar-led Haryana govt must answer

Chandigarh: Haryana was blighted by the violent reaction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s followers — which left at least 32 people dead — after the special CBI court pronounced him guilty in a rape case.
Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar reportedly admitted to mishandling the situation, making a series of unforced errors.
Here are five questions that he must answer:
Why did the government allow the build-up of dera followers?
Despite an early heads-up, state authorities did not take any steps to stop the mass gathering of the dera chief’s supporters in Panchkula. The court had reserved its verdict in the case on August 17. The government had adequate time, but did not take any preventive action.
Why were prohibitory orders not enforced to stop gathering of dera followers?
The administration was late in imposing section 144 CrPC. When it did on August 23, the order was ambiguous and only against carrying of weapons. There was no mention of limiting a gathering to just five persons. The authorities enforced the relevant section only after a rap on their knuckles from the high court.
Why didn’t Khattar and his colleagues use their pull with dera?
Dera Sacha Sauda had openly backed the BJP during the 2014 assembly polls, helping the party form its first government in Haryana. BJP ministers have been regularly visiting the dera headquarters at Sirsa. But when the situation started turning ugly, they didn’t employ backchannel negotiations with the dera. Instead, they kept soft-pedalling, and banked on officials.
Why were no lessons learnt from previous blunders?
The present crisis wasn’t the first to be botched-up by the Khattar administration. His government had not covered itself in glory with its hugely embarrassing mishandling of similar confrontations twice earlier — the Jat quota stir and self-styled godman Rampal’s arrest.
On both occasions, the government was found wanting in its response. After the Jat stir, former IPS officer Prakash Singh, who conducted a probe, had made detailed recommendations regarding crowd-handling procedures.
Who will take the blame for this mess?
The post-verdict violence left a trail of death and destruction in Haryana, besides Punjab. The BJP has also been left red-faced. But the state government or the party are still to initiate any inquiry or take action anyone for missteps that allowed the situation to get out of control. Earlier, IPS officer Prakash Singh had severely indicted several state officials, but no action has been taken till date.

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