The city of Panchkula, virtually the seat of Haryana Government, has witnessed wide scale violence resulting in death of more than thirty persons and destruction of large number of public and Government properties yesterday at the hands of supporters of Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmit Ram Rahim. The violence took place in the wake of his conviction in a case of rape by Special Court of CBI. The curfew has now been imposed and town handed over to Army for restoring normalcy. Many other towns in Haryana and Punjab have remained tense and had their share of violence.
The violence in Panchkula was another monumental failure of State Police and administration. The question arises, whether this was avoidable and could have been prevented. The answer is an emphatic YES, more so when the State Police and administration had bitter experience of Satguru Rampal incident and Jat agitation, which also saw largescale violence, and destruction of public property.
The abject failure of State Police and administration in handling the Jat agitation was followed by setting up a committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. Prakash Singh former DG, BSF to enquire into the acts of commission and omission by the civil and police officers. In a scathing report, the leadership of the police and senior officers of State administration were indicted, and leadership at senior level was adversely commented. Many important recommendations were made but unfortunately, as usual, neither any action was taken on the report nor any lessons were learnt by the State Government. On the other hand, certain individuals in the State Government questioned the report and it remained a mere file like many other in the government cupboards.
The date of the judgement was known to the State Police in advance and it was also known that the Dera Chief enjoyed a large following in the Star of Haryana and neighbouring states of Punjab and Rajasthan. There was a definite intelligence input and media reports that the Dera was to mobilise a large number of its followers on the day of judgement. In spite of these, the State Police did not impose restrictions under Section 144 CrPC on time and when imposed a day before, these were enforced more in violation. Large number of persons, among them women, many armed with lathis, and children were allowed to trickle in, knowing full well that it would be extremely difficult to deal with an emotionally charged mob especially as it consisted of women and children. The police also remained mute witness to the convoy of more than hundred cars, which accompanied Dera Chief to Panchkula from Sirsa. Even the goading of High Court of Punjab & Haryana did not make any difference.
Is only the government of the day responsible for this sad state of affairs? The rot is perhaps deeper than we realise. It has been the result of tendency on part of the successive governments cutting across party lines to post convenient and friendly officers at the helm of affairs in both Police and administration. The competent officers often cool their heels in so-called side postings. Unless the State Police and administration is revamped and officers of proven calibre and impeccable integrity made leaders and allowed to function without political interference, one is afraid that this may not be the last unfortunate incident, which we are witnessing. The warning is loud and clear. Unless the States act now, we will see repeat of such events in different parts of the country, agitations on different issues will continue to result in destruction of public property, loss of innocent lives, and deprive many of their daily livelihood. The promise of the States to generate employment by attracting investment from outside will merely remain a pipe dream. No one will think of investing if peace, tranquillity, and safety of the assets is not assured.
(The writer, a former IPS officer, retired as Director General of Bureau of Police Research & Development and has earlier served for long years in Andhra Pradesh, CBI & NIA. The views expressed are personal.)