High Courts and the Supreme Court make remarks against any state or the central government only under compelling circumstances to point out their flaws or blunders committed by them and that too with the expectation that the erring rulers would respond and the situation would improve, but when their observations fall on deaf ears, it becomes a matter of anguish not only for the judiciary, but also for the people at large. In very rare cases, the court passed such harsh remarks as the Punjab and Haryana High Court did against the Haryana government and the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, in a special hearing, a day after the Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted in a rape case on August 15. Just after the announcement of the verdict, the followers of the cult leader let hell loose in Panchkula, Sirsa district of Haryana and went on rampage in some parts of Delhi and Punjab. Next day, the shocked court held Manohar Lal Khattar’s government responsible for the violence and chaos that erupted following the special court verdict in Panchkula. Al least 36 people were killed and more than 250 injured in this unprecedented lawlessness. The bench comprising Justices S S Saron, Surya Kant and Avneesh Jhingan castigated the Haryana government and CM Khattar in particular and questioned how tens and thousands of people were allowed to gather at the headquarters when there was every possibility that the followers of the sect would go on rampage if the judgment went against their ‘Godman’. The court said, “You (the state government) have been misleading us. Administrative decisions were paralyzed by political decisions.” It also slammed Haryana education minister Ram Bilas Sharma for giving a grant of Rs 51 lakh to the Dera recently. The court termed the centre’s response to the violence as ‘only a knee-jerk reaction’. These and other remarks by the court were simply ignored both by the state and central government.
Despite the most inept handing of the situation by the state government, no action was taken against the Chief Minister who even admitted flaws on the part of the government. The BJP strongly defended the Chief Minister and ruled out his replacement. It is reported that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh ensured lakhs of votes in favour of the BJP in 2014 elections. On this account only the Khattar government was showering all favours on Dera Sacha Sauda. Curfew was in force, but thousands of people were allowed to gather at the headquarters of the sect. Despite the intelligence inputs that the sect’s followers were storing fuel, weapons and stones, the law and order machinery played spectator. Neighbouring Punjab and Delhi also witnessed violence, but the preparedness of law enforcement agencies was of higher grade in those places. Why the Haryana was lagging behind, apparently because the ruling party was under obligation of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. The court in its remarks also indirectly hinted at this fact. It was the vote-bank politics that forced the government to handle the situation with kid gloves and this resulted in violence, loss of life and property. After coming to power, the policy was adopted by the Chief Minister, but before gaining power, the vote-bank strategy was the main motto of the BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi who while addressing a public meeting at Sirsa in 2014 reportedly said, ‘ I salute the land of Dera Sacha Sauda. The people of the land are dedicated to cleanliness.’ The clip of this speech was circulated in social media. The dual standard of the BJP on vote-bank politics is clear from the fact that when the UPA government conceded the justified demands of the Muslim minority, it was called ‘appeasement’ and ‘vote-bank politics’, but when illegal activities of a sect are allowed for the sake of votes, it has nothing to do with vote-bank politics.
Hats off to the special CBI court that on August 28 sentenced Dera Sacha Sauda chief to 20 years rigorous imprisonment for raping two sadhvis in 2002. The convict was also slapped a fine of Rs 30 lakh.