Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, with a knowledge of what the Dera followers are capable of, wanted to make sure things don't take an adverse turn in Punjab after the verdict against Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
Punjab had earlier witnessed Dera violence following a controversy over the Dera head impersonating as the tenth Sikh Guru. The Punjab government made sure there were no recurrence of the 2007 incidents, when Dera supporters had ransacked several parts of southern Punjab, their stronghold.
Haryana, on the other hand, did not take any lessons either from Punjab or from the 2016 Jat agitation that left 30 people dead. The violence was later blamed on lax administration and a police force that preferred to look the other way rather than take on the Jat protesters head on.
With two days of Dera violence, the toll is now 36, including 16-year-old Lovepreet Singh from Gidderbaha, who had merely gone visiting his aunt, a Dera follower. His aunt had asked him to accompany her to Panchkula. He died of bullet injuries on his back as he was trying to run for his life.
Despite inquiry commissions looking into the earlier law and order failure and proposing corrective measures, Haryana faltered again this Friday.
Dera Sacha Sauda followers on Friday, went on a rampage outside the Panchkula CBI Court as soon as the Judges declared their chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim guilty in a 2002 rape case. 36 people died within a span of two days, with 31 dying right after the verdict.
Haryana government sources would like us to believe that they had to play ball for a while and allow Dera supporters to gather in Panchkula, only to make sure that Gurmeet Ram Rahim was present in court.
The stark difference in the functional style of the two neighbouring chief ministers was evident during the build up to the Dera verdict as well.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh visited the borders of the two states to make sure entry points were sealed and police forces deployed to prevent Dera supporters from coming in large numbers. As a result, no lathicharge took place in the city, nor were any lives lost.
While the epicenter of Friday’s action was not in Punjab, but Haryana and particularly Panchkula, the Punjab Police had checked all 98 Dera gathering spots called Naam Charcha Ghars across the state and confiscated pipes, rods and petrol bombs.
In Haryana, apart from the Panchkula court, the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters in Sirsa was the second most volatile spot on Friday, where thousands of followers had gathered.
Punjab did witness vandalism at a railway station at Balluyana near Bathinda, a power grid burnt in Lehra Ghagga, a telephone exchange damaged at Chananwal, a Sewa Kendra damaged in Faridkot and several other incidents of minor violence and arson.
Amarinder Singh said, the state had started preparing as early as August 13 and started working on shared intelligence gathered by Punjab with Haryana. “Haryana should not have allowed the huge gathering of followers,” he said even as he added that Punjab could not stop Dera followers from reaching Panchkula as it was not possible to identify them.
Singh is slated to visit Mansa, Maur, Bathinda and Malout on Sunday to take stock of the ground situation in the wake of arson and violence by Dera followers and also make preparations ahead of the quantum of punishment to be decided in Rohtak on Monday.
Haryana on the other hand, despite advance warnings of all sorts, failed to prevent the gathering of tens of thousands of Dera supporters in Panchkula.
A subsection of Section 144 of CrPC that prevents gathering of more than five people was not included and later attributed to a ‘clerical error’.
The High Court has questioned the ‘clerical error’, saying it looks more deliberate than an error and has said it could go deeper into the reasons behind the ‘error’.
The court has also observed that Haryana went soft on Dera for political reasons and did not take a tougher stance ahead of the verdict. Government sources however said they had planned much in advance and several scenarios were taken into account to determine the possible course where they would be able to secure the custody of Gurmeet Ram Rahim, with the least loss of life.