Some Sharp Questions Are Being Asked About Panchkula And The Political Nexus

Raman Swamy

The post-Panchkula scenario becoming more complex with each passing day.  It is no longer just a question of lamenting the death and destruction that followed in the wake of Ram Rahim’s conviction for rape.  Nor it is merely lambasting those responsible for the breakdown of the law-and-order machinery. 

On Saturday, the focus shifted to a far more pertinent issue – Why?  Why was the Government unable (or, more likely, unwilling) to control the rampaging crowd of Dera devotees?
It was left to the Punjab and Haryana High Court to cut through all the hedging, fudging, political prevarications and crocodile tears – and to boldly point the needle of suspicion in the right direction. 

Here are few scathing home-truths from the Bench quotes (as reported by news agencies) while severely reprimanding both the Central and State government for the anarchy witnessed in Panchkula and several other places: 
1.     "You let the situation escalate. You surrendered to the situation";  
2.     "You let a city like Panchkula burn for political motives"; 
3.     "You are trying to crucify a small DCP of Panchkula -  What about those political masters who have been giving wrong directions?"
4.     "He (Narendra Modi) is the Prime Minister of not the BJP but of India";
5.     "Is Haryana not a part of India?”.

This bring to mind what an American clergyman Henry Ward Beecher said 150 years ago -- “The worst thing in this world, next to anarchy, is government”.

Opposition parties like the Congress and the CPI(M) have demanded the resignation of Haryana Chief Minister Manoharlal Khattar.  The CPI(M) Polit Bureau, for instance, issued the following statement:  “The Haryana State Government cannot remain in office. The Chief Minister must be immediately sacked”. 

But why? Why should Khattar be made the fall guy?  In the light of what the state judiciary has said, why should not the central government and the Prime Minister himself be put on the mat?

The army was called and asked to stand by.  But not pressed into action at the right time.  State chief ministers cannot be held culpable for not issuing order to the army.  It is the Centre that has the powers, through the President. 

There are several theories about why the Government was unable or unwilling –
1)     Ram Rahim had helped BJP win the elections by giving crores of money and mobilizing lakhs of votes and therefore his followers had to be treated with kid gloves;
2)     it was a devious strategy to reassert the power of the State by first allowing things to get out of hand and then cracking down with a heavy hand; 
3)     it was sheer incompetence and inept governance; 
4)     it was a clerical error – two orders were issued prohibiting people from carrying weapons but neither of them barred the assembly of five or more people; 
5)     the policemen on riot duty in Panchkula fled the scene because many of them are devotees of Ram Rahim; 
6)     it was Punjab chief minister’s fault for not stopping so many Dera devotees from crossing into Haryana in the days before the court verdict;  
7)     it was the media’s fault for sensationalizing the rape case; 
8)     it was the Panchkula DCP’s fault for revealing his true feelings and personally carrying the luggage of Ram Rahim even after the pronouncement of the verdict;  
9)     it was CBI judge Jagdeep Singh’s fault for pronouncing a guilty verdict.  None of this would have taken place had he had agreed to relocate his court to Sirsa. Or even better, if he had agreed to declare the godman not guilty.

There are even more bizarre and more ridiculous versions of why things went so horribly wrong.  But the ground reality is that they did go wrong and the situation is heading towards greater chaos.  A hundred years ago, the poet William Bultler Yeats wrote:  “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”.  

Do these clichéd lines apply to the post-Panchkula scenario in today’s India? 

Aug 28, 2017

Raman Swamy

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