Merely a few kilometers away from where I am seated right now, last Friday, excessive rioting occurred. Over three-dozen people were shot dead, Car Windshields were smashed to smithereens, a two-decade old hotel was burned down, a public building was vandalized, even torched partially, and the lives of the people living in the vicinity of Panchkula, an urban town in Haryana, bordering Chandigarh, were brought to a cessation. On 25th August, the Chief Minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, committed numerous mistakes. The biggest mistake was to ensure that Guru Ram Rahim Singh (who we shall address as GRR from here) made it to the court, even though thousands of his followers had gathered in the city.
His Biggest Mistake (Pun Intended):
Yes, ensuring that GRR made it to the court in Panchkula was the CM’s mistake. Why care for justice or even facilitating it by cooperating it with the High Court when all the media and public care for is your resignation.
Make no mistake, the ecosystem within Haryana offered enough room for GRR to get away. He had endorsed governments by both the parties, was known to celebrities, including the likes of Virat Kohli, and had engaged in enough philanthropy to get away with any crime. The case he was convicted for in 2017 was from 2002, with a decade long gap between the CBI filing their charge sheet and the court convicting him.
A couple of weeks ago, half-of-India had no idea who GRR was. Barring a few million people in the states of Haryana, Himachal, Punjab, and Rajasthan, people in the East, West, or South had no idea of his “majestic” existence. Even if the case had been postponed for another 10-years, no one would have cared, not even the leftist media that claims to be the savior of women across India.
Thanks to the tag-team of the judiciary and the state government, it didn’t come to that, and GRR was sent to a place where he rightfully belonged, but all this trouble, was it worth it?
Messenger of God, Really?
We live in a country where a single mistake in some movie or TV show pertaining to any religion (except Hinduism obviously, because secularism), warrants an urgent action or sometimes a violent reaction. Religious correctness overshadows rationality, and the conviction of a terrorist is linked to their religion before it can be traced to their crime, even if the crime is as heinous as the Bombay blasts of 1993.
GRR was no Ram or Rahim, and definitely not the Messenger of any God, but for his followers, he was an assortment of every religion the subcontinent ever witnessed in the last 2000-years. In GRR, a socially alienated population saw a literal messiah, a Robin Hood of sorts, and being the ‘Love Charger’ he was, he charged his followers with enough hope, optimism, and money.
MSG was not the first self-styled Godman, and he is not going to be the last. Every state of India houses enough godmen and associations that thrive on their own interpretations of religion and ideologies. They attract followers in thousands, lakhs, and sometimes, even Crores. These are not your traditional cavemen looking to find the true meaning of life by meditating under a tree, but profitable foundations and corporate groups.
On 25th August, an entire religion was convicted. A man who his followers believed took care of women from the lower caste, widows, women who had been discarded by their families, and even prostitutes; was convicted of sexual exploitation.
What they believed to be a ‘Love Charger’ was proven to be a ‘Lust Charger’.
Religion has a way of clouding our minds. Some interpretations lead us towards light, and some away from it, and in the case of GRR, the latter was the case. How else can one explain women, in thousands, ready to die for a man who had raped other women?
GRR’s Followers: Mindless Culprits or Hired Criminals?
The weekend of 18th August, a week before the conviction, witnessed the first arrival of GRR’s followers in Panchkula. Clearly, this arrival should have been anticipated, but for another couple of days, it wasn’t even noted. On Tuesday, 3-days before the conviction, the State finally took notice and imposed Section 144. An open area housing thousands of GRR’s followers were now asked to comply with Section 144.
Obviously, the cooperation never came.
GRR had a way with his followers, quite evident by the movies he released. For an average cinema lover, those movies were nothing short of a pretentious display of shallow piousness, but for his followers, a direct entry for their ‘father’ to the Academy Awards. The same followers had now gathered in Panchkula, making arrangements within themselves for food, using the concrete roads as bed and overgrown bushes as their restrooms. Amongst themselves, they were well organized, not letting the weather or lack of food hinder their support for GRR. This wasn’t a fan-army, but a planned circus of zombies, aimed at holding a city hostage.
Nothing short of death was going to stop them from supporting their ‘Pitaji’, and as the evening of 25th August proved, nothing short of death did.
The State v/s GRR (x100000):
Starting Tuesday evening, the State finally took notice of the rioters looking to enter the city of Panchkula. Borders were sealed, the security was enhanced, and a lot many people were sent back in scores from the state border itself. The peculiar location of Panchkula allows it to share a border with Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, and necessary security was employed at all the necessary checkpoints.
The relevant forces were called in. CRPF, and even the Army. A couple of kilometers away from the court where the conviction was to be held, the headquarters of the Western Command was, and therefore, the reinforcements weren’t a problem too, in case the situation went out of control. If not at the ideal time, the Khattar government ensured that the ideal security had been ensured.
The conviction came, and the rioting began. Armed with petrol and diesel bombs (the sale of fuels had been ceased already), knives, and bamboo sticks, GRR followers vandalized what came their way. The residents of four sectors (Chandigarh, Panchkula, and Mohali are divided into sectors, spread over an area of 6000-9000 acres each) endured violence of magnanimous proportions.
Soon, reports started pouring in from different states. As a local, I learned of rioting occurrences from the city of Mohali (which is a part of Punjab). Apparently, none of the occurrences made it to the local newspapers next day, but the media did pick them up. Uttar Pradesh, Loni in Ghaziabad (For those unaware, Loni is an area dominated by Muslim population), and Rajasthan reported violence of some magnitude.
Just before dusk, and 3-hours after the conviction, the State finally managed to contain the cult of MSG. His followers had either dispersed, escaped, or chosen to be killed.
Punjab CM and his PR Stunts:
Clearly, the nucleus of this violence lay in Panchkula while Punjab had its own share of violence and vandalism.
The CM of Punjab, Capt. Amarinder Singh, made sure that no one missed his excellent handling of the situation. Redundant media bites and online clips made for an exciting PR, giving the leftist media a chance to cheer a Congress on political ventilator.
Given how MSG’s empire was based in Haryana, there was no cause for violence in Punjab, but in dispersed form, it did occur, leading to many unaccounted deaths. According to unconfirmed local sources, the local hospitals saw enough bodies from Punjab too, but the media ensured that the entire attention was fixated on Haryana alone.
In one of his tweets, Punjab CM clarified how he had made Sonia Gandhi aware of the entire situation and assured her, and in another, he had himself recorded talking to someone in the Police, congratulating them for ensuring law and order across the State. Talk about making Arvind Kejriwal look like a noob when it comes to PR.
The Obsession with Khattar’s Resignation:
If Khattar was paid a dollar in the last one week every time someone on-air asked for his resignation, he could have helped the Centre with the fiscal deficit. For some reason, everyone found Khattar to be at fault. His photographs with GRR were circulated (Clearly, they forgot to mention how Congress helped delay GRR’s conviction for over 10-years).
Making little sense, everyone in the media, Right or Left, begged for his resignation. Ungrateful, they ignored how the swift action of the forces had ensured that the whole city did not burn down, for GRR had ensured enough followers to take down an entire city, along with Chandigarh and Mohali partially. Containing a mob of religiously motivated zombies is no joke, especially when they are civilians, and they are the ones you have vowed to protect, but for media, the solution to every problem was in Khattar’s resignation.
The Media made us believe that High Court was quick to showcase its disappointment pertaining to the law and order. The Judges were quoted as accusing State for inaction and even hauling PM Modi for “inaction”, Now The same bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court, clarified that it was quoted out of context by the media while reporting the observations. During the resumed hearing of the case, Acting Chief Justice S S Saron addressed Additional Solicitor General of India Satya Pal Jain in open court and said his statement was taken out of context and “it was not intentional” when he said that Prime Minister and Chief Minister are not of any party, but of the nation. Talk about Media spins!
The leftist media couldn’t blame Khattar for not using pellet guns, for he had no objection when the real ones were used. They couldn’t compare the situation with Kashmir, for Khattar had shown no objection with the forces tackling the mob in a stern manner, even if it meant shooting an unarmed woman looking to burn down a vehicle.
Khattar, for now, remains the CM, but what if he followed Twitter to contain the situation?
The Alternates before Khattar:
1) Why didn’t Khattar order Section 144 to be imposed a week ahead of the conviction?
For many, the ordering of Section 144 seems like a job. Contrary to popular belief, Section 144 isn’t some sunscreen lotion you apply just because you guess it’s going to be hot outside. A week before the conviction, the situation was relatively calm. The crowds hadn’t begun to descend, and one couldn’t anticipate the possibility of rioting. However, for the sake of argument, even if Section 144 was imposed a week ago, it would have created more chaos. For one, it would have given GRR a reason not to appear before the court citing the prevailing tension within the area. Alongside, if any violence, planned or spontaneous, occurred, the High Court would have blamed the Khattar Government.
Also, he would have locked himself up in his headquarters, surrounded by his followers, making it more difficult for the police or army to bring him to justice. Again, the High Court would have blamed Khattar for creating this tension, even if it were a precaution in the first place. One must also remember that Section 144 would have had an impact on the routine life in the city, especially trade and commerce given the highway in question connects Himachal Pradesh to Punjab and Haryana, and is the main highway for connecting Delhi to Himachal Pradesh.
2) Khattar Garnered Political Mileage by Allowing GRR Followers to Gather within the City:
Yes, Khattar allowed the followers of GRR to gather in Panchkula, because he knew that a hundred-thousand rioters facing armed forces 1/10th their size would wreak havoc, and because bloodshed and large scale destruction of public property would help him win the next State Election.
Honestly, If GRR wasn’t convicted, Khattar would have been the biggest loser, and even as GRR was convicted, Khattar still did not gain anything.
3) There was Violence and Rioting, and hence Khattar Should Resign:
Let’s take your opinion and let’s assume that the CM of Haryana resigned. What next? A new CM? Alright, let’s have a Congress CM for the sake of argument.
Tomorrow, in some other state, or the same state, another high profile case comes up. You know what will happen? Congress will downplay it, probably have it settled outside the court, and BJP being BJP will again take it to the court, but with more skepticism, given the last time they did something legally, they were thrown out of power.
Another Ram Rahim Ronald will rise and will commit crimes, probably more heinous. This R3 will know that if he is brought to justice 15-years later, his pack of zombies will successfully hold the system hostage like it almost happened once in Panchkula.
Forget conviction, no victim will ever raise their voice against a godmen committing such heinous crimes.
4) Why were his followers not shot?
To begin with, 36 deaths were accounted for across Punjab and Haryana.
Imagine you were given the license to kill. You are James Bond and you have a pistol with 6 bullets. Please tell me what good that pistol is if you are facing 100 crazy men and women willing to die for their leader?
The forces were outnumbered, mercilessly, and yet, they contained the situation with minimum deaths. I am not saying that this was the ideal solution, but given the circumstances, it was the best they did. Had the state machinery been inefficient as the media projected so, Panchkula would have been burned to the ground and forget 3-hours, the situation wouldn’t have been contained in 3-days even.
Some of you might have felt the need to kill all his followers. Deep down, or with your friends, you must have discussed the thought of getting rid of all the rioters who had gathered, because they were acting crazy.
Just because a civilian cult is on the wrong path, it doesn’t mean the State initiates an armed crackdown or facilitates a civil war. If this is how things worked, the Kashmir issue would have been resolved a long-time back.
However, one must rightfully criticize Khattar and his state machinery for allowing a large convoy of MSG, of around 200 cars, to enter the city. Clearly, the state machinery ended up making a fool of itself in this aspect.
Tomorrow, if Khattar is made to resign, even Capt. Amarinder Singh must, along with Arvind Kejriwal for they all failed to curtail the violence in their respective states.
The 36 lost lives accounted for is not a price GRR’s followers paid for gathering in Panchkula, but for believing in him, and the sad part is, they are willing to sacrifice 36 more if that strengthens the otherwise defeated cause of their leader.
Imagine yourself in a position of leadership in a democracy so vibrant and volatile such as ours, and ponder over resigning because a cult is willing to kill or die for a rapist.
Before these godmen are backed by the politicians, they are created by the population. BJP, Congress, any cricketer or actor won’t care for these godmen unless they attain a god like stature before their followers. In this case, GRR had attained that stature, as evident by the love his followers had for his movies, for his social gatherings, rallies, and so on. GRR was a creation of a population alienated by the society in some or the other manner.
This wasn’t the last time something like this happened. Tomorrow, the State may want to investigate the clerics who indulge in sexual exploitation of women, may work towards eliminating reservations, uniform civil code, and so on. Again, a cult will emerge, so sure of its principles that it will seek righteousness in burning down a city, and again, they will be defeated, but only if the public continues to believe in the leaders it has elected.
If you want a perfect leader, you will never find one.
As a democracy, we must seek a leader looking to make a brave move, a move that might alienate his loyal vote banks. The court may have convicted GRR, but it is Khattar who lost the critical vote banks, for the unfortunate popularity of such godmen makes them indispensable to politicians of all the parties.
Already, the Court has attached the properties of GRR in order to recover the losses to personal and public property, and one hopes that the process is completed in less than 3-months. Yes, the solution worked out by the Khattar government was from ideal, but looking at the larger picture here, one can safely say that the entire machinery and population got away with what can be termed as a parking ticket in the scheme of things.
You want to blame Khattar and want him to step down because he ensured that the case wasn’t delayed anymore; please be my guest, and remember, with the end of his tenure you will also kill the hope of any other celebrity, especially the one making a business out of religion, being brought to justice before the court.
The question now remains that would Congress do something like this?
Clearly, not, for if they had to, they would have done it in the 10-years they had.