Atleast 30 people have died and 250 injured, mostly in police firing, after violence broke out post the conviction of controversial leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect Gurmeet Ram Rahim yesterday in a 15-year-old rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana. Sentencing in the case will be done on 28 Aug.
The violence was centred in Panchkula where thousands of Dera followers had been gathering over the last few days, and incidents of arson have been reported from Delhi & Punjab as well. Curfew has been imposed in Panchkula and some other districts of Haryana and Punjab. The Dera is said to have 6 crore followers in North Bharat – Haryana, Punjab, UP and Rajasthan.
By all accounts, the violence in Panchkula is a breakdown of law & order machinery. Administration had enough warning of the situation going out of control, yet they failed to act in a timely manner allowing over 1 lakh Dera followers to gather in Panchkula.
Indian Express reports that on Thursday, the Punjab and Haryana High Court pulled up the government for not imposing Section 144 CrPc correctly to prevent the huge gathering of followers in Panchkula. The state advocate-general admitted in court that there was a “clerical mistake” in the Section 144 order passed by officials.
CM Khattar has admitted to lapses in handling the situation, and promised to recover damages by selling the Dera properties as directed by the Court. What raises more questions is that the Khattar administration has faced such situations before – in Nov 2014 the Khattar administration had faced a similar situation while trying to arrest Sant Rampal, while last year’s Jat agitation (fueled by Congress) had seen large-scale mob violence in the state. Union Home Ministry also could have done a better job at monitoring the situation. A retired Lt. Gen living in Panchkula has written on the issue, and no one can disagree with a word of what he has said. It is also disturbing that the convict Gurmeet Ram Rahim is being given VIP treatment in jail.
But we must guard against the shrill rhetoric of those who are using this violence as a stick to selectively attack BJP, Modi and Hindu society. Here are 4 common propaganda narratives that one must watch out for:
1.) Are all Controversial Godmen / Godwomen Hindu?
For media and establishment intellectuals, this was too good an opportunity to miss out on some good old-fashioned Hindu-bashing. “From Gurmeet Ram Rahim to Radhe Maa: Top 5 controversial ‘Gurus’ of India”, said DNA, while an earlier piece by Indian Express titled “Controversial godmen of India: A list of self-styled ‘gurus’ and their sexual assault controversies’ even took a swipe at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
For the record, neither Gurmeet Ram Rahim or Radhe Maa or Nirmal Baba (Nirmaljit Singh Narula) were born Hindu, and the belief systems created by them often rejected central tenets of Hindu Dharma.
What is worse: “self-styled gurus” who run foul of the law (and are punished for it sooner or later), or paedophile and rapist “institutional gurus” backed by globally powerful organizations, who repeatedly get away with their crimes just by confessing to a brother priest and following “God’s law”?
Now to pursue with the same zeal priests who sexually abuse the young in their parish & mullahs who sodomise little boys#RamRahimGuilty
— Nandini 🇮🇳 (@NAN_DINI_) August 26, 2017
An eminent economist from the secular camp tried to remind Hindus of how Nehru-Gandhi had set us on a “civilizing course” from which we had now regressed in his opinion.
Seeing the Dera violence & social regress one marvels at how Nehru & Gandhi set India on a civilizing course of modern secular democracy.
— Kaushik Basu (@kaushikcbasu) August 26, 2017
Do our elites realize that it is the same unwashed Hindu masses who have made giant strides in social justice & empowerment of backward classes due to unceasing efforts of non-Congress politicians like Lohia, Kanshi Ram, JP and many more? That the nation is today rejecting political dynasts like Nehru-Gandhis across the political spectrum? That it is the so-called regressive Hindutva forces who have spoken up for the rights of the Muslim woman?
2.) Is Gurmeet Ram Rahim hand-in-glove with BJP?
The hard truth is that no political party can afford to ignore a sect which has around 6 crore followers. But what is being glossed over in the breathless media reporting is the fact that before 2014, Gurmeet Ram Rahim was firmly in the Congress camp.
Clever omission not to mention that before 2014, he was a Congress Pug for donkeys years. Elections fought by UPA with this guy's support. https://t.co/yso5tqROXW
— Shyam Sekhar (@shyamsek) August 25, 2017
And despite Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s claims that the situation is under control in Punjab, the reality is different –
— All India Radio News (@airnewsalerts) August 26, 2017
And lest facts get lost in the tidal wave of opinion pieces that are sure to be unleashed in coming days and weeks, it needs to be said that CBI started investigating Gurmeet Ram Rahim in 2002 after PM Vajpayee received an anonymous complaint – and the judgement was delivered during NDA-2. UPA just sat on the case for 10 long years – a quid pro quo to acquire the Dera votebank?
What totally exposes the hypocrisy of those demanding Khattar’s sacking on grounds of law & order breakdown are completely silent on the systematic, ruling-party backed terror which exists in Kerala and West Bengal today.
And some just can’t help themselves from dragging in the B word (beef) in any issue related to any BJP leader. For them, agenda trumps all else!
Bad news: Dozens killed in arson and rioting.
Good news: Illegal to buy a hamburger.#KhattarSchoolOfGovernance
— Sadanand Dhume (@dhume) August 25, 2017
In Panchkula, police did not hesitate to open fire on the violent mob, just like they did not hold back when trying to contain the Jat agitation – in fact, one can question whether other crowd-control tactics like teargas, rubber bullets, air firing were used before police shot the Dera followers. We must take our mind back to two recent incidents of planned mob violence to understand why the Haryana’s Govt tough stance against mob violence is unique, initial lapses notwithstanding –
June 2015 – A 6000 strong Islamist mob backed by a Muslim MLA had overrun 800 police personnel in Ambur, Tamil Nadu. The mob attacked police (including women constables), burnt buses, attacked passengers and brought a National Highway to a standstill – police was forced to be a mute spectator due to Muslim political pressure on ruling AIADMK.
Aug 2012 – a 40,000 strong Muslim mob gathered at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan for a ‘protest’ against alleged oppression of Muslims in Myanmar and Assam. Two persons were killed and 63 were injured, including 58 police personnel. The rioters armed with rods, swords and even firearms had poured in from different parts of Mumbai and held the country’s financial capital hostage for couple of hours of pure mayhem.
5 lady constables were molested and the mob which snatched two rifles and a pistol from police also destroyed the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial. The injured policemen said the protestors beat them with hockey stick, iron rod, stones, wooden mace with nails and metal rod.
A totally ill-equipped police had strict orders not to fire on the mobs. On the day of the riot, police commissioner Arup Patnaik was seen arguing with local deputy commissioner of police Dr Ravindra Shisve who had caught hold of one of the rioters red-handed. Patnaik threatened the DCP of suspension and asked him to release the miscreant immediately.
As per this report from Nov 2016, trial of the 57 accused (100s of rioters got off scot-free) for that riot is yet to begin. Those who delivered provocative speeches that day were never convicted.
Many media houses like NDTV almost blacked out coverage of the Azad Maidan riots. CM Prithviraj Chavan & Home Minister RR Patil (who had said in wake of 26/11 that “such small incidents keep happening in big cities”) never fielded questions from media on the violence. No one questioned Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi or PM MMS for the failure of the Congress Government in Maharashtra.
Many celebrities who are criticizing ML Khattar for not taking even tougher action and pre-empting Panchkula violence were either silent or actively praising Mumbai police’s ‘restraint’ over Azad Maidan riots. Even a poem by a policewoman Sujata Patil calling for tough action against the rioters that day, was slammed as ‘hate-mongering’ by likes of Javed Akhtar.
Here is the ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ shouting crowd which went on the rampage on 11 Aug 2012 while Congress Govt stood by silently –
And here is how Haryana police handled the mob violence in Panchkula on 25 Aug 2017 –
Despite administrative shortcomings, ML Khattar deserves some credit for facing up to the media, taking questions and admitting to lapses. A similar accountability to the public was seen when UP CM Yogi Adityanath faced up to a press conference after the recent Gorakhpur tragedy.
3.) The ‘Where are the pellet guns?’ mob
As soon as news started coming in of violence, the usual suspects in media and politics started raising the now common chant of “where are the pellet guns?” They did this earlier during the Jallikattu protests and Karnataka/TN violence over Cauvery water judgements. For them any civil disturbance anywhere in the country is a chance to create a false equivalence with the decades-old deadly Islamist separatist movement in Kashmir.
Tweeted from same phone? pic.twitter.com/llMVFoL3Cz
— iMac_too (@iMac_too) August 25, 2017
But after a few hours, it became clear why security forces were not using pellet guns on the rampaging Dera followers..they were using live bullets.
Tweeple asking why pellet guns used in Kashmir aren't being used on #RamRahimSingh mobs: You know REAL guns are being used, already 28 dead?
— Baijayant Jay Panda (@PandaJay) August 25, 2017
One CNN-News 18 Kashmiri journalist started preparing a narrative – “Modi Govt. goes soft on Haryana law-breakers (Hindus), and is unduly harsh with Kashmiri protesters (Muslims)”
If this much of a violence would have happened, there would be have been 30 casualties and 100s injured in Kashmir.
— Mufti Islah (@islahmufti) August 25, 2017
Well, the target of 30 Hindu deaths set as a benchmark to prove Modi’s neutrality was met before the day was over. Facts show that Government has shown far less hesitation to use deadly force in Panchkula, compared to Kashmir even though threat to security forces is far greater in Kashmir.
Some public “commentators” were parading the “pellet gun” line even today morning, by which time almost everyone with a TV in Bharat knew that 30 people had died in the violence after police fired LIVE BULLETS on the mob.
4.) Are all Dera Sacha Sauda followers anti-socials?
Bharat’s Foreign Secretary during UPA-2 tweeted thus –
The nation wants to know: do these people belong in civilized society? https://t.co/P8z4vjkz5A
— Nirupama Menon Rao 🇮🇳, നിരുപമ മേനോൻ റാവു (@NMenonRao) August 25, 2017
It is easy to tar all Dera followers with the same brush – as anti-social, rapist supporters. In any cult, there is an inner ring close to the cult leader which exercises power over the rest of the followers. Especially when someone positions himself as the ‘Messenger of God” (Prophet), such brainwashing becomes acute.
And this is not unique to Bharat. In 1993, 79 people died after FBI stormed the Waco, Texas centre of the Branch Davidian Christian religious sect whose ‘prophet’ David Koresh was accused of raping a 12-year-old-girl.
Law & order is a problem area in Bharat – lack of police reforms by successive Governments is largely to blame. Haven’t we seen violence by political workers of PFI, JEI/JUH, Congress, TMC , CPM, DMK, AAP, RJD, Shiv Sena etc? Have we forgotten the ‘when a big tree falls, earth shakes’ comment by Rajiv Gandhi to justify the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom?
In the case of Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s conviction, police have and must continue to deal sternly with any Dera followers who take law into their hands.
But Hindu society would be committing a huge blunder by shunning all Dera followers. Many of these people are seeking spiritual solace and a sense of community which mainstream Hindu society could not provide. The reasons for that are multi-fold, but the bottomline is that we must help Dera followers get meaningful spiritual and religious guidance. Else we are just throwing them to the wolves, i.e. Evangelists.
And we should contemptuously dismiss attempts to create equivalence between the Panchkula violence and jihadi mobs like the one which rioted in Ambur & Azad Maidan or the ones which pelt stones on Army in Kashmir. Dera followers are not following any doctrine of violence directed against non-believers..they are just misguided in their blind adulation for a man they mistook for a demi-God.
A more relevant question is this –
The nation also wants to know: Do the people who come out in masses to mourn terrorists like Memon and Wani, belong in civilized society? https://t.co/iVzlY9VUeE
— नेहा श्रीवास्तव (Nehā S) (@neha_aks) August 25, 2017
The rise of figures like Gurmeet Ram Rahim is a consequence of the secular assault on Dharmic institutions in independent Bharat. But that is the topic of another article.
(Featured Image Credit: indianexpress.com)
7.30 AM, 27 Aug: The article has been updated with some additional information related to violence in Punjab, and some typos have been corrected.
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