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Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Might Have Paid The Price But It Is Too Little Too Late

The politician-spiritual guru nexus which on occasions has led to mayhem with the state government abdicating its responsibility in maintaining law and order. Politicians should not allow the weakening of the state at any cost. 

The nexus between politicians and Babas or so called spiritual gurus is nothing new in this country because the latter wield considerable influence on their followers who blindly do their bidding undeterred by the consequences.  

The vote bank of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh running into lakhs makes all the difference between winning and losing assembly elections particularly in Haryana and Punjab. This has attracted politicians in seeking the Guru's favour. As a quid pro quo it entails protection and rendering favours to the Baba of Dera Sucha Sauda by the state government. 

It was no different when BJP won in Haryana for the first time during the assembly elections in October 2014 since the state was formed on November first, 1966. The help rendered by Baba in ensuring his vote bank favoured the BJP has been acknowledged by the top party leaders in no uncertain terms. 

At the same time Gurmeet Singh's colourful gurudom has come crashing down having been sentenced for two decades -- longer than life imprisonment -- along with being slapped with a fine by the judge of the CBI special court earlier this week on August 28 for betraying the trust of two vulnerable women. 

He will shortly be arraigned for charges of murder. What brought his downfall pertained to politicians seeking to grant him immunity from crimes outside the Dera gates. This led to the make believe world of  the 'premis' or his followers come crashing. Compounding matters was the encouragement to the 'Premis' indulge in riotous frenzy. 

Without taking any risks or antagonising the Baba's vote bank, politicians are known to overlook indiscretions by these self anointed gurus. In this instance the entire country witnessed the abject failure of the Manohar Lal Khattar government in containing the violence in the wake of Gurmeet Singh being found guilty by the special CBI court. 

People continued to gather in Panchkula for nearly a week before the judgement last Friday onSeptember 25 . The mayhem resulting in no less than 38 lives being lost not to speak of the burning of vehicles and damage to property. 

The opposition's demand that Khattar be removed as chief minister having failed miserably in controlling the law and order situation for the third time in as many years in Haryana was rejected by the Prime Minister. 

Having miscalculated in the first instance, the state government had enough time on its hands to plan and make the necessary arrangements on the day of sentencing on May 28 so that things did not get out of hand. Shoot at sight orders were given to contain violence, if any. 

What is shocking is that dangerous implements including firearms were recovered from the convict's followers coupled and lawlessness being carefully nurtured. 

In this case the BJP government was in direct breach of its duty in upholding the law. The Punjab and Haryana High Court was up front in the scathing criticism of the Khattar government. It accused the chief minister of deliberately allowing dera followers and "anti-socials" to gather in their thousands for no less than a week inspite of the court's warning. 

The Court's observations drew attention to the administration's connivance in turning a blind eye to a criminal outfit in quasi religious garb. Of course the supporters of the Dera had gathered in greater numbers in Panchkula and Sirsa, the headquarters of the sect in Haryana. 

At the same time nothing remotely can explain the inadequacies of Haryana's response to last Friday's mayhem. Neighbouring Punjab and Delhi also witnessed violence but the preparedness of the law enforcers were of a higher order in both these areas.  

In the last decade the rise of Gurmeet Singh has been phenomenal. He became a saint, doctor, Insaan and what have you -- focussing on the messages of peace and harmony while leading a degenerate life. His self promotion through movies and biography lists his felicity in more than two score arts and sports. 

Considering his reach in the constituencies of South Punjab and Haryana, the Shiromani Akali Dal, BJP and the Congress have patronised him. Groups of Premis (Dera's followers) and Sikhs have clashed but he seemed above the law. He remained a power broker unto himself in Haryana and Punjab. 

Even though the so called spiritual leader had played the role of a kingmaker during the elections in the past, the authorities are now keen to attach Dera Sucha Sauda's properties to pay for the damage caused by the Baba's followers. 

It would also be appropriate to probe the Dera's financial affairs. Gurmeet Singh might have paid the price but it is too little too late. Whatever the situation, politicians in power should not allow the weakening of the state at any cost.

(The Views are Personal.)

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