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Dera Violence: Ex-IPS Officer Who Probed Jat Violence, asks Why Build-up Was Allowed

Dera supporters run amok in Panchkula on Friday. (AP photo)

Dera supporters run amok in Panchkula on Friday. (AP photo)

Former IPS officer, Prakash Singh, who probed the lapses in the 2016 Jat agitation says the tragic turn of events on Friday, after the verdict against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, looks like a government plotting.

While investigating the Jat agitation in Haryana last year, I witnessed a complete paralysis and collapse of civil and state administrations. People in power connived with the agitators to allow large-scale violence and destruction of property in the state.

But in the case of Dera Sacha Sauda, the state had not collapsed. They did make some half-hearted attempts to contain the damage after being lashed at, by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The police has now come up with a lame excuse about there being some 'clerical mistake' in the prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC that they had issued. But these prohibitory orders had serious lacunae. The order only prohibited people from carrying weapons, there was no prohibition on the entry of five or more people, which is what any such order is about.

The lapses in the prohibitory order cannot be treated as a minor clerical error. It was an order that was promulgated in the context of a developing serious situation. Whoever is the police officer in-charge, doesn't deserve to be where he is. He must be booted out and punished for this.

But what I suspect, and have no proof of, is that issuing such a flawed order was a deliberate mistake. The state government must have plotted to allow people to enter into Panchkula.

There is political nexus between politicians and Gurmeet Ram Rahim. On the eve of every election, these people go to the Dera Sacha Sauda chief and plead him to direct his millions of followers to vote for their party.

In the Haryana Assembly election in 2014, he directed his followers to vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

So there is a clear political obligation that needs to be repaid. The state seems to be working on an action plan wherein action against Gurmeet Ram Rahim on conviction is inevitable but the blow has to be softened as much as possible.

On one hand the state tried to put up a show of having acted as per the law, but on the other hand it also ensured that the blow, to the followers of Ram Rahim, was not too hard and they were able to get as much leeway as possible. That seems to have been the game. But it misfired.

First, the High Court intervened and reprimanded the state for not doing enough and second, the violence went out of hand.

These people had come prepared with incendiary explosives, lathis and country-made weapons and stones. As somebody rightly said, if they were expecting Gurmeet Ram Rahim to be acquitted, they should have brought sweets.

They came prepared with whatever legal non-actionable weapon they could land their hands on while the Dera chief’s public appeal for calm and peace looked like an eye-wash.

I'm sure he privately told his followers to wreak havoc everywhere if he was convicted. So much havoc that we lost as many lives in half a day as we lost in one week of the Jat agitation. The intensity of violence in this case was clearly much, much higher.

I saw on today's Indian Express a photo of forces running away from a bunch of protestors. I don't know which force they belonged to, but I feel ashamed that these things continue to happen in the state even after a year.

The other thing that needs to be investigated, apart from the ‘clerical error’, is the police’s running away from the scene. The leader of this platoon needs to be sacked.

Dera Sacha Sauda followers weren't armed with sophisticated weapons. I'm ashamed that the police have not changed at all in this one year.

Having seen the Haryana police force from close quarters, I can safely say that these are officers, who are the toughest in the country, and if properly moulded and trained, they can even fight wars in Afghanistan, against the Taliban. But, here they are, unable to take a stand against a poorly-armed crowd. It's pathetic. I pity the Haryana police. It shows that there has been no change in their morale and training.

Finally, I would like to make a couple of points about the judiciary. I won't get into the reasons as to why it took the court 15 years to convict a person charged with rape, but one thing I can't understand is that if you've found a man guilty, why does it take you four days to pronounce the quantum of sentence.

You're keeping an entire administration and lakhs of people in a state of suspense. You're giving an opportunity to corruption to creep in and influence the outcome of a decision. Why can't you deliver a sentence in the same judgement.

Also, there was no element of surprise considering the fact that such levels of violence was expected after the judgement.

Once when a terrorist was hanged without any announcements, it caught everyone by surprise. The man was hanged and there was no opportunity to create mischief. Why can't there be an element of surprise in cases with serious security implications? These are things that the judiciary needs to ponder on.

At the end, I would say that the large-scale mayhem caused across Haryana, Punjab and parts of the national capital was essentially a political failure. With the help of bureaucratic timidity and half-hearted police action, it escalated to a tragedy.

Prakash Singh is a retired IPS officer, who served as the chief of UP Police, BSF and Assam Police. More recently, he conducted an inquiry into the 2016 Jat agitation, based on which some officers were held guilty and punished for abetting riots.