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Khattar Govt Learnt Nothing From Jat Violence, Slept on Intel of Mob Build-up in Panchkula

Today’s mob fury looks strikingly similar to the Jat agitation that unfolded in February last year. And as happened the last time, intelligence inputs clearly warning the state about mob violence had started to come in two weeks in advance.

Suhas Munshi, Aishwarya Kumar

Updated:August 25, 2017, 6:54 PM IST
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Khattar Govt Learnt Nothing From Jat Violence, Slept on Intel of Mob Build-up in Panchkula
Smoke billows after supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect set vehicles on fire near in Panchkula on Friday, August 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
New Delhi: It was from under the nose of Haryana administration that lakhs of Dera Sacha Sauda followers continued to pour into Haryana over last several days equipped with firearms and petrol. Despite intelligence inputs from Punjab police, Haryana police allowed mobs to assemble in and around Panchkula in huge numbers. It finally took the Punjab and Haryana High Court to ask the state government to rein in the mobs. But by then, it was already too late.

DSS followers have left a trail of destruction in Haryana, Punjab and Delhi. At least 13 people have been killed and over a 100 have been injured in the violence that started from outside the CBI court in Panchkula, where the sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted of rape on Friday.

Despite a letter written by the Director General of Police (Law and Order) Punjab a few days ago, warning his fellow officers that DSS followers were seen storing inflammables in drums and were seen stocking sharp instruments, the Haryana police did nothing to prevent the mob fury.

In fact, police started heavy deployment in and around Panchkula 48 hours in advance but did nothing to prevent assembly of lakhs of heavily armed DSS followers.

As this piece is being written, arson continues to rip apart Haryana and Punjab, and the national capital. Mobile services have been suspended, 150 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed and 22 trains through Punjab and Haryana have been cancelled.

Government offices have been set on fire, media vehicles have been damaged and government properties in Delhi have been set ablaze. Now, the army has been pressed into action and six columns of the army are being deployed in and around Haryana. The Union Home Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office is reportedly now keeping a tab over the unfolding violence.

Barely one-and-a-half years ago, Haryana had witnessed similar scenes of mob violence. Today’s mob fury looks strikingly similar to the Jat agitation that unfolded in February last year. And as happened the last time, intelligence inputs clearly warning the state about mob violence had started to come in two weeks in advance.

The first intelligence inputs about Jat reservation agitation being violent came in on February 4, and the last came on February 18. The government chose to ignore the intel warnings and over the next one week, the state burned and the violence consumed lives of 30 people and properties worth crores of rupees was destroyed.

Last year in February, after their demand for reservation in government jobs wasn’t met, Jat mobs had set on fire several parts of Haryana and had attacked minority communities in several districts of the state, worst affected of which were Jhajjar and Rohtak. Nearly 30 people were killed in Haryana in three days and well over a 100 people were injured.

During those days too, the administration under the Chief Ministership of Manohar Lal Khattar had watched helplessly as Jat mobs had practically taken over the state. Even then the state administration had allowed mobs of thousands of Jats to assemble over days.

But the state administration seems to have learnt little from the last big episode of mob violence, the injuries from which haven’t healed till today.

According to sources, the state got its first warning on August 18, when hundreds of Dera followers walked into the CBI court assuming that it was verdict day. The police was caught unawares.

The state machinery continued to sleep even after August 18. Dera followers were allowed to assemble and were described as peaceful by the authorities. Interestingly, while they allowed Premis (as the sect followers are known) to assemble, the state government also sought the central government’s assistance ‘in case of any unprecedented situation if the court ruled against the Dera chief’.

In fact the Director General of Police (Law and Order) Punjab, in a recently written letter to all the senior police officers of the state had explicitly mentioned that ‘it has come to the notice that Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa premises, has stock of petrol, diesel in drums.’

The letter also said that stones and sharp-edged weapons are being stored at ‘Naam Charcha Ghars’ (prayer centre) in Faridkot district. The DG Punjab police had warned well in advance that if the verdict didn’t go in Rahim’s favour, then his ‘devotees can use petrol and weapons to harm/destroy the government or public properties.’
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