Since the guilty verdict against the Indian godman and Guru – Ram Rahim (full name, Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Raheem Insaan) on August 25, 2017, violence has spread in the state of Haryana where his followers burned millions worth of property, buses, and caused the death of more than 35 people. If the Haryana government only had to learn from its past mistakes (or successes!) in handling two similar incidents (one in arresting another godman, Rampal in November 2014, and another handling the crisis in Jat agitation in February 2016), this mindless violence could have been prevented or at least contained. So the question is – is the current state government (BJP party headed by CM, M.L. Khattar) really incapable of handling crises or did it purposely sit back and let the things go out of hands. Before we try to answer this, it may be worth exploring some background information about Ram Rahim.

Ram Rahim heads a religious sect, called Dera Sacha Sauda, which has been in existence since 1950’s in relatively rural and uneducated area of Haryana, Sirsa. While the earlier Dera Gurus were practically unknown to anyone outside Sirsa area, Ram Rahim became a controversial figure soon after taking over in 1990. He angered the Sikh community in 2007 when he allegedly tried to impersonate the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh and thus had been ex-communicated by the Sikhs. Small scale fights happened between his followers and Sikhs in Punjab, which helped him get Z+ security (comparable to PM) at government cost. This probably helped him recruit even more followers in Haryana and then start producing movies in which he is shown as the Messenger of God (MSG). Regardless, Ram Rahim remained practically unknown political force till 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Meanwhile, he learned how to get the political support and created a political wing to make deals with current and future politicians. During 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP party sought the support of the Dera and the party president, Amit Shaw, personally met Ram Rahim and made a political deal, the details of which are unknown to outsiders. Ram Rahim endorsed official support to BJP and his 40-50 million followers take his advice religiously and voted for BJP, which formed its first ever state assembly in Haryana. Many attributed the success directly to Ram Rahim, see the news below:

After BJP came to power in Haryana, Ram Rahim enjoyed unlimited power and influence. He was even praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself when he supported the Clean India campaign and was seen holding broom with Haryana Chief Minister M.L. Khattar. Haryana Education Minister, Ram Vilas Sharma donated Rs. 51 lakh to his Dera from his ministry’s discretionary quota ‘to promote sports’ in the Dera.

Now, coming to the events associated with the course case. The justice was long overdue in this case of sexual exploitation of young women by Ram Rahim and possibly his close associates at the Dera. One such victim wrote a letter in 2002 to then Prime Minister of India (along with copies to Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab) about the sexual abuse happening and requested government to take action. As usual, no action took place until a year later when some local newspapers published the letter and the High Court asked the police chief to investigate. During the process, the journalist who published story and the brother of the woman who wrote the letter were murdered allegedly by Dera members (separate cases are pending in the court regarding these). Later, High Court asked the case to be transferred to CBI due to influence of Dera over the local police and politicians. After years of court deliberations, the judge announced guilty verdict on August 25th. The Haryana and Punjab were completely aware of the possible violence in case of such verdict and started asking for additional police and army personnel from Delhi in couple of days before the judgement. They even imposed Indian Penal Code (IPC) Article 144, which restricts large gathering of people. However, Haryana CM did not enforce it properly due to his party’s close association with Dera and large gatherings of Dera followers were allowed in one of the most urban centers of Haryana – Panchkula. The neighboring cities of Chandigarh and Punjab made their own arrangements. After the guilty verdict, the Dera followers easily broke of the police barriers and started torching the city. Millions worth of property, including shops, good, cars, buses were burned to ashes and more than 35 people were killed while police showing helplessness. Meanwhile Punjab and Chandigarh, which also had sizable number of gatherings handled the situation well and prevented any violence from happening.

Hope this helps to answer the question I asked in the beginning as to whether the current Haryana government is incapable of handling crises or just interested in pleasing its political alliances and favors. Keep in mind that it is the same government that boasts of having one of the toughest cow protection laws in the country (10 years jail for anyone eating beef), making Bhagwat Geeta (Hindu religious scriptures) reading mandatory in school curriculum to help raise morality, and to revive the Hindu sacred river of Sarasvati, which had dried out more than 4000 years ago due to natural causes.