After Ram Rahim’s conviction by a court in Panchkula, thousands of his supporters went berserk, burning cars, targeting the media, damaging property and clashing with security and policemen. The violence spread fast to other towns in Haryana and parts of Punjab. Some incidents were reported in Delhi.
The Haryana government has been criticised for mismanaging a situation that escalated quickly, despite several warnings. The government has also been accused of allowing at least 1.5 lakh followers of Dera Sacha Sauda, the sect headed by Ram Rahim, to gather at Panchkula and other cities ahead of the verdict.
“You let the situation escalate. You surrendered to the situation,” said the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Chief Minister ML Khattar had acknowledged yesterday that there were gaps. The “lapses have been identified and we are taking appropriate steps,” he said last night, adding: “This should not have happened.”
But in another statement, he also appeared to shield Ram Rahim’s followers as he said criminals had infiltrated the crowd of Dera Sacha Sauda devotees.
The court has said that the property of Dera Sacha Sauda should be seized to pay for the massive damage they have caused.
Fifteen Dera supporters have been arrested since last night, the police said. Searches at all ‘congregation centres’ of the sect across the state have been ordered, said top Haryana bureaucrat Ram Niwas.
By 5 pm yesterday, the Army was called in to Panchkula and Sirsa to help regain control after the riots.