By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, Aug 27 (IANS) In the past over 100 hours of the Dera Sacha Sauda mayhem, the BJP government in Haryana led by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar relied on lies, half-truths and secrecy to defend itself in the face of the mayhem which left 36 people dead and over 250 injured.
The Khattar government, which has come under attack for its inept handling of tough situations leaving the common people at the mercy of marauding mobs, be it the Jat agitators in February last year or the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) followers on Friday, has chosen to brazenly pat itself on its back for “controlling the situation within three hours” and even claiming that things could have been worse.
What the Khattar government is not wanting to admit is that its “achievement” was at the cost of 36 lives lost in these three hours.
While Khattar chose to remain silent for several hours before and after the violence, his chosen officers, comprising Director General of Police (DGP) B.S. Sandhu, Chief Secretary D.S. Dhesi, Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Ram Niwas, Advocate General B.R. Mahajan and others, continued to mislead the Punjab and Haryana High Court, media and the public with unabashed lies and half-truths.
Khattar, who visited the Panchkula General Hospital just hours after the violence, had no idea as to how many people died in the incident. In front of TV cameras, he turned to some “IG saab” (Inspector General) and said 15 had died. The media said it was 22. Khattar replied: “Aap keh rahe ho toh 22 maan lete hain.”
For Khattar, even the virtual insinuations by the High Court against his government’s mishandling of the build-up of Dera followers and the violence seemed to have little effect.
DGP Sandhu was centerstage during the entire episode in covering up for the actions, or the lack of it, of the Khattar government and his own force.
He denied vehemently that the Haryana Police ran away when the violence started after the verdict went against the Dera chief and he was convicted of rape by the CBI special court here on Friday.
Video and photographic evidence and personal accounts of reporters on the ground belied the DGP’s claims that the Haryana Police did not run away.
When the DGP was asked how the so-called daughter, Honeypreet, of the Dera chief was allowed to get into the helicopter, specially arranged by the Haryana government to transport the convicted self-styled godman to Rohtak, he feigned ignorance.
He later said he will investigate and that he did not know about it. Honeypreet, a close aide of the controversial godman, accompanied him with several bags and suitcases till the prison near Rohtak.
The DGP also denied the incident inside the court complex immediately after the sect chief’s conviction in which one of his own senior officer was slapped allegedly by security personnel of the disgraced godman and another one was shoved around.
Chief Secretary Dhesi too covered up for the actions of the state government which continued to be soft towards the sect chief and his followers. He denied that any VIP treatment, including an air-conditioned room and a water purifier, was given to the sect chief in prison.
Both officers were on the defensive when asked how the sect chief came with a motorcade of nearly 200 vehicles, including several of his Lexus and Mercedes SUVs and Z-plus security vehicles, to Panchkula despite court orders to the contrary.
After the media highlighted the lapses and VIP treatment, the Haryana government ended up sacking law officer (Deputy Advocate General) Gurdas Singh Salwara, who had picked up a suitcase of the sect chief after his conviction, and suspended senior police officer Ashok Kumar (Deputy Commissioner of Police) for not issuing proper orders to prohibit assembly of Dera followers in Panchkula.
The DCP’s suspension was questioned by the High Court.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court bench of Acting Chief Justice Surinder Singh Saron, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Avneesh Jhingan took the Haryana government and its Advocate General B.R. Mahajan to task for misleading the court on various occasions.
“The administrative decisions were paralysed because of the political decisions,” the bench observed.
The High Court didn’t mince words to accuse the Khattar government of succumbing to “vote bank politics” (the Dera had supported the BJP in the 2014 elections) and letting the Dera followers gather and create mayhem. It held that the Khattar government was in collusion with the DSS.
The bench even questioned Haryana Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma, who was recently seen touching the feet of the sect chief and prostrating before him, for giving a grant of Rs 51 lakh from the state funds to the DSS.
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