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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2403

Camp Of ‘True Deal’ Sets Five States On Fire

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

The literal translation of ‘Dera Sacha Sauda’ would be ‘Camp of True Deal’. But after the violence that took over 30 lives following the conviction of the head of the Dera, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, on rape charges by a special CBI court in Panchkula (Haryana) on August 25, it will be hard to associate the Hissar based cult that claims millions of followers in India and abroad with any ‘true deal’.

The Dera chief, called a spiritual guru and much pampered by politicians, has also been accused of murder. Media has reported on allegedly dubious activities conducted within its sprawling precincts in Hissar. Can such a place or ‘cult’ be associated with anything ‘true’?

Mayhem on August 25 was not confined to Panchkula which is one of the three towns that go by the name of ‘Tri-City’ (Chandigarh-Mohali-Pamchkula). It had engulfed many parts of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, parts of UP near Delhi and Delhi as well as Chandigarh, another union territory.

Perhaps more shocking than the number of dead and injured (over 200) was the incredible nonchalant with which the government of Haryana, led by Manohar Lal Khattar, handled the situation. The date on which the CBI court was to deliver judgement on the Dera Sacha Sauda case was known much in advance. The day was expected to be tense with the possibility of a large number of followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh turning up at Panchkula to express solidarity with their ‘Guru’, not necessarily in a peaceful manner. Khattar had all the time to take advance measures to deal with a situation that was likely to turn ugly.

Before the CBI court was to pronounce the judgement, the Haryana administration imposed section 144 (Cr P C) which prohibits assembly of more than four people. Then how was it possible for hundreds of thousands of Dera supporters who had come from places far and near to converge on Panchkula? People had started coming days in advance with the full knowledge of the administration. Yet, nothing was done to stop them and a tense situation was allowed to be built up.

It was the third major instance of breakdown of law and order in Haryana after Manohar Lal Khattar became chief minister of the state three years ago. Each time there was a huge public outcry, demanding his resignation. His apparent incompetence was glossed over by the BJP because Khattar is backed by the RSS. It doesn’t seem to matter that his failure is not only bad for the state but more so for the BJP. What has happened in Panchkula and elsewhere has dented the image of the party which is said to be overconfident of returning to power after the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.

The Jat agitation early last year, which lasted more than a fortnight, had led to clashes between protestors and police resulting in the death of 30 people. In 2014, hundreds of supporters of another ‘god man’, 63-year-old Rampal, also based in Hissar and wanted in a murder case, fought pitched battles with the police to prevent his arrest.

The BJP seemed to be sure that three major incidents in three years are not going to make any difference to the party’s prospects. That could be true if it was certain that there will be no fallout from the violence in Panchkula and elsewhere. It will not be erased from public memory hurriedly. There are indications that it has disturbed the prime minister.

Narendra Modi usually likes to observe ‘Maun’ (silence) over matters that show his party in poor light, hoping that his appeal would rub off the negative effects. But obviously public pressure became too much to bear this time around. A few hours after the violence in Panchkula and elsewhere, Modi tweeted his concern.

But by then some of his own party members had caused further damage by defending the incompetence, nay, indifference of the Haryana chief minister. One leading light of the BJP, Shakshi Maharaj, a Member of Parliament, said the whole thing was a ‘conspiracy’ to defame ‘Indian culture’! Surely, he knows that rape and violence is not part of ‘Indian culture’ or any other culture.

Shakshi Maharaj is also a kind of spiritual leader who has been accused of criminal offences. Perhaps he thought it was his duty to defend a fellow ‘god man’. But defence for Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh also came from BJP office bearers, including the person in charge of Haryana.

The Dera chief has in the past been sought after by almost all leading political parties. But in recent years he has enjoyed special relationship with the BJP—and even the Akalis despite having been severely condemned by the Akalis when he allegedly dressed himself as Guru Gobind Singh. Most of the Haryana cabinet is said to be beholden to him. Three ministers of the state have contributed more than one crore rupees to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s Dera from out of their discretionary funds, which is created with taxpayers’ money.

One would have imagined that no spiritual leader would be tempted by power and pelf. But it does not seem to be true anymore, though it must be added at once that not every spiritual leader is of the same mould as Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

Nonetheless, it is essential to break the nexus between politicians and so-called spiritual gurus and god men. It has to be broken once for all with political will. The sense of power and immunity enjoyed by such dubious men and women has to end.

- Asian Tribune -

Camp Of ‘True Deal’  Sets Five States On Fire
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