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Ram Rahim conviction: How Khattar govt failed to see the writing on the wall

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As the situation in Haryana spirals out of control in the aftermath of the rape case verdict, ThePrint looks at five blunders made by the state government.

Minutes after Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted by a CBI special court in Panchkula on Friday, violence and arson broke out in Punjab and Haryana. Government buildings and vehicles were vandalised and at least half a dozen persons died as a result of mob clashes with the police and paramilitary forces. Curfew has been imposed in several places in Punjab. Panchkula, the city abutting Chandigarh has become the epicentre of violence.

We look at five glaring mistakes made by the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana:

Selective imposition of Section 144

The Panchkula police failed to impose the clause in Section 144 of the CrPC banning the assembly of five or more persons in one place. The police said in the Punjab and Haryana high court Thursday that the clause, whose imposition could have significantly prevented the violence from spreading, was not notified for Panchkula due to a “clerical error”. The admission is being read as a direct proof of the state’s collusion with Dera supporters.

Shoddy checking for arms

While a complete ban on anyone carrying weapons under Section 144 of the CrPC was imposed, it was clearly done shoddily. As many as 39 nakas were in place in and around Panchkula, where hundreds of cops were deployed to check for anyone in possession of weapons. Yet, the police failed to recover any weapons even though  Dera supporters used petrol bombs and many were seen using country-made firearms.

Intelligence failure

While the Punjab police issued clear instructions to its zonal IGs that the Dera supporters gathering in naam charcha ghars are carrying weapons and are hoarding petrol, Haryana intelligence failed to see through the situation. Surprisingly, the police believed the Dera men when they claimed that they will not be breaching peace anywhere. A.S. Chawla, the police commissioner in Panchkula, told the high court Thursday that Sector 1 of the city where the court complex is located is completely “sealed and “sanitised”. “Not even a bird” can enter it, he assured. On Friday, the sector saw the worst instances of violence.

Evacuation of Dera men

The state simply failed to evacuate the Dera supporters, even though the court ordered their immediate evacuation from Panchkula and other places. While Haryana’s DGP held a press conference saying that the orders would be complied with, the advocate general told the court Friday that the entire city had been cleared of Dera followers, with the exception of sector 23 and 5, where the followers were still squatting “peacefully and without any weapons”. The AG also added that the police have thrown a cordon around them.

Cabinet minister’s shocking statement

In a statement that almost amounted to virtually giving state patronage to those gathered, cabinet minister Ram Bilas Sharma, on Thursday, said Section 144 did not apply to the Dera premises. He even appreciated Baba Ram Rahim’s contribution to ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ and Swachh Bharat campaigns.

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