Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan, head of the spiritual cult Dera Sacha Sauda, was convicted by the CBI Court in a rape case and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. As soon as the verdict was announced by the court, violence erupted in Haryana and Punjab states, Panckula being the center of vandalism. The consequences of the verdict were already predicted a day ahead and police personnel were employed in large chunk to avoid such goondaism. The only question now is – why was the preventive detention not used when this choreographed violence was already predicted?
The Preventive Detention Act,1950 has been one of the widely misused Acts. It is infamous for its widespread use during the national emergency (1975-77). It has been criticized by many as it is a mechanism for the government in power and powerful politicians to avoid dissent and to remain in power. Leaving aside the political interests, had the government used the Preventive Detention Act to preserve public safety, 30 lives could have been saved. This incident is an example of a complete failure in the state administration.
More than 100 vehicles were gutted, public properties damaged and many were killed and injured; there was definitely a way to prevent such a tragedy. In India we do not believe in ‘Prevention before cure,’ we allow uncalled incidents to happen, play the blame game between the political system, earn some brownie points, set up inquiry committees and take years to solve it. The loss of lives as well as properties take years to deliver compensation. Why are we least bothered about prevention when we can save time, money and lives if measures are taken on time?
Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code was imposed in most places. When groups of followers started assembling even after the army asked them to leave the premises, this should have sounded the alarm to the administration and government. Yogendra Yadav, a political and social activist from Swaraj Abhiyan smells nexus between Rahim and the political leaders from the state. In the NDTV Prime Time discussion, he said that before the pronouncement of the verdict, ministers from the state had been in touch with the Rahim’s group.
Millions of lives will suffer if the proper safeguards are not taken. Though armed personnel were employed, the violence could not be curbed. Normal lives in the affected states were not only crippled, but the adjoining Union territory/states like Delhi and Uttar Pradesh are equally affected also. Delhi, in particular, does not have its own resources and depends very much on Punjab and Haryana for every kind of resource. Earlier this year, during the Jat agitation, water connections from Haryana were cut off hampering lives in Delhi due to the shortage in water supply. Any such unrest can create a domino effect in many adjoining places.
Banning of cellular and internet services will not serve any purpose to thwart such incidents. The administrations have used similar ways of banning cellular services in Jammu and Kashmir and north east states but we do not see any good results. In fact, banning aggravates the problem. There have been outcries following the banning of services. It does deprive citizens of basic rights and information and creates an atmosphere of confusion. Post this incident, there were disruptions in the cellular services. Students studying in Delhi-Noida-Gurgaon regions and those staying far away from home and families could not connect with their near and dear ones; a worrisome situation indeed.
Self style godmen like Rahim have millions of followers. These followers act as a vote bank for most of the political system at the time of elections because of the nexus between such self style godmen and political parties. In the name of religion, sentiments of the people are used to serve some political interests. Though it is difficult to wipe off such vote bank politics, there should be an attempt to curb this menance through proper legislation and sensitizing the people.
It is disheartening how people treat violence as the end solution to everything. We have forgotten our freedom fighters who fought for independence from the yoke of the British empire through ‘non-violence’. Such incidents will decrease the relevance of ‘non-violence’ and ultimately degrade the works of our freedom fighters. We should preserve such core values we have inherited. One should not follow any leader blindly. We should learn the importance of human lives. The court has convicted Rahim on the basis of evidence available. There is always room to approach the higher court if arbitrarily convicted, but vandalism and assault as an immediate reaction is the wrong approach. We should really sit and think – Do we really want to damage properties, incite violence and kill people just to save a rapist?
Kingson Chingakham is a citizen journalist based in Delhi, India. He is currently pursuing M.A Political Science from the University of Delhi. Politics and Society are his core interests. He has recently started contributing stories to Indian media houses. He aims to become a Political Journalist in the near future.