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Anatomy of a Riot: When Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's Premis Turned Violent

As journalists, we are tuned to smell trouble. And we smelt it at least 24 hours before the theatre of absurd began in the residential areas of Panchkula.

Subhajit Sengupta | CNN-News18SubhajitSG

Updated:August 26, 2017, 1:57 PM IST
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Anatomy of a Riot: When Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's Premis Turned Violent
Dera Sacha Sauda sect members overturn an OB van on the streets of Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in a north Indian town after a court convicted their guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan, of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
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Panchkula: You can sense it when a crowd turns into a mob and a riot starts. The crowd goes restless, the eye - listless, it seems hundreds of men and women are awaiting directions, from something or somewhere.

Suddenly the more adventurous of them begin beating one of the OB vans with sticks. Their eyes still at security forces, still skeptical, trying to gauge how much would be too much.

But forces stationed in riot gear are also gauging the situation. There is no clear command structure. It seems they are waiting to see if the crowd's appetite is satiated by just breaking a couple of vehicles. The tear gas shells were loaded but not fired yet.

By now the crowd has begun to turn into a mob, the first movers are now emboldened. The herd now want to follow the 'heroes'. They too want to taste blood now.

Once the first of the OB vans' pyre is lit, police decides to step in. Tear gas shells fired and water cannons comes in to action. At the height of this drama, comes in another farcical act. Those firing the water cannons loses control and instead started spraying the high speed water on the para military personnel.

The crowd by now has taken the shape of an angry mob. The chaos amongst the security forces ensured that the action taken by them can at best be called sporadic.

This is when the attack begins. The Dera followers now go on a rampage and the police and para military forces retreated. The command structure completely down, followers of the rape convict goes on to hold Panchkula to ransom for the next 20 mins. Vehicles torched, put on fire, bullets fired randomly at security forces as all the pent up energy seems to have been put on use.

Finally the counter attack begins. Forces go on an onslaught. Security forces open fires, lathis begin to hit the supporters frequently.

This went on for 3 hours and all the 60,000 odd supporters were forced to run for their life...out of the city.

As journalists, we are tuned to smell trouble. And we smelt it at least 24 hours before the theatre of absurd began in the residential areas of Panchkula. While reporting from the sector 2, sector 5 and the areas close to the court complex, we knew things could go wrong.

We kept asking the top cops and the DM as to when would these people be removed, they kept saying soon. When we asked what if the crowd goes berserk after the conviction of their god man, the answer of the DGP was “we are prepared.”

They were probably prepared to see to see Panchkula and other areas burn.

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| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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