Manohar Lal Khattar, Haryana chief minister will have to go. His government cannot escape responsibility for serious lapses in reining in the goons of Dera Sacha Sauda after its chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of raping two women saadhvis at his ashram in Sirsa.
If Union railways minister Suresh Prabhu was willing to quit, taking full responsibility for the frequent train accidents, why not Khattar? Precious loss of life and huge destruction of public property in northern states, including Haryana, was a direct fallout of the state’s miserable failure to handle the mobs that went on rampage in Panchkula and other places after having been motivated by the Dera goons.
While Khattar’s transformation as a full-time politician after having been an RSS pracharak was not easy, running affairs of the state does not seem to be his cup of tea. From the beginning, handling the Dera and his chief was never easy for Khattar given the millions of followers the flamboyant godman, film hero and director has, since it could influence outcome of state elections. Like his Congress predecessors, Khattar and BJP was definitely a benefactor of Dera Sacha Sauda’s support in the state assembly and Lok Sabha elections of 2014. The demi-god posing as a messenger of the god not only flaunted his proximity with the Khattar government and BJP, but was perhaps doubly sure that the law of the land will not incarcerate for heinous offences, including rape of women devotees and even castration of male followers.
Soon after coming to power Khattar government’s failure came to the fore when violence erupted and led to the death of six innocent followers after a stand off between another self-styled godman, satguru Rampal maharaj from his Satlok ashram at Hisar way back in November 2014. Even then, when Rampal’s supporters perpetuated violence in a premeditated way, he was unable to act decisively. In fact, the death of 32 people, large-scale destruction of government and public properties on Friday was a grim reminder of Hissar incidents in 2014. And, what happened at Sirsa, Chandigarh, Loni, parts of Punjab and Delhi was a replication on a much larger scale due to huge bungling by the Khattar government. These two incidents were not just isolated cases attributed to inexperience of a first time chief minister, but showed dysfunctionality in the face of political expediency.
Khattar government’s failure to tackle the Jat community agitation resulted in the death of 30 people, scores of rapes and huge property loss last year. While the Jat community had demanded reservations in education and government jobs, the violence during face off with the government spread across the state’s 22 districts. Even today, the Jat community is an agitated lot since the promises made by Khattar government never got fulfilled. They seem to be in no mood to give up, the tinderbox like situation may erupt again. Repeated ineptitude shown by Khattar cannot be forgiven or forgotten. Nor condoned, the BJP leadership has to act on Khattar’s paralysis.
If BJP and its leadership were not to fritter away the confidence reposed by the electorate, Haryana government’s performance must be subjected to closer scrutiny and trigger a leadership change immediately.
Unless the state and the political parties reach out directly to people and address their grievances, these false godmen and godwomen are bound to make merry due to social and economic exclusion faced by certain sections. Most of these Deras have become the havens for sexual abuse, peddling drugs and clinching big corporate deals owing to their proximity to the power pyramid.
The two main political parties —BJP and Congress — will have to negate the cult figures like Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and Rampal by roping in the lower middle class and the disadvantaged subaltern sections. Unless the political parties and social organisations dissociate the vulnerable sections from the likes of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Deras are bound to rule the roost.
Several Deras operating across northern states will have to tackled with tenacity and deft handling rather than political parties using them conveniently for electoral gains.