NEW DELHI: On August 25, the despicable breakdown of law and order related to the court verdict of rape accused Gurmit Ram Rahim (GRR) was covered on most foreign channels. How many people have been killed and how many injured may never be known with TV reports of 30 killed, 200 injured and social media posts of 100+ killed alone. This despite the Punjab and Haryana High Court berating the Haryana government on August 24, for failing to prevent crowds from entering Panchkula, and accusing it of “collusion” while discussing a Public Interest Litigation.

On August 25, Panchkula residents sat ensconced in their houses watching TV coverage of GRR arriving at the court in a convoy of some 200 vehicles in an arrogant display of power. According to a veteran Army Commander, half an hour before pronouncement of the verdict, electricity was snapped and TV screens went blank. Internet services had already been suspended. Soon firing was heard, smoke rising from many places as observed from rooftops with violence spreading rapidly.

The first question is could this violence have been prevented? Why could the Court not assemble at an unknown location (disclosed last minute) and GRR brought in police vehicle under police escort? When the Court was aware of the crowds and impending violence on August 24, why was the verdict on GRR next day not postponed till the State provided a safe environment for the residents?

The second question is why this situation was permitted despite announcements of ‘all measures in place’, 68+ additional police-PMF companies inducted, police officers talking to media confidently, imposition of Section 144 (?), and then letting the crowds grow without any attempt to check the inflow. Is it not that the state didn’t expect GRR to be convicted and wanted to exploit his victory into a political celebration and revelry to secure the vote bank of his followers for future elections?

The third question is given the size of the crowds gathering since August 23, what kept the Ministry of Home Affairs complacent about the explosive situation building up?

The fourth question is who is GRR? His exploits became known when on September 25, 2002, ‘Desh Sewak’ published a letter written by a girl raped repeatedly by GRR, addressed to then PM AB Vajpayee in 2002. Take this with a pinch of salt or without, but it brought out damning facts, including:

-GRR keeps captive and rapes many girls with the threat threat of killing their parents;

-educated girls too were lured into becoming ‘Sadhvi’s’ and then raped by GRR, who watched ‘blue’ movies and kept a revolver next to him while raping;

-on an average a woman’s turn to be raped used to come after 25-30 days;

-he told girls he was God and it was their duty to submit to him;

-he talked of his influence with Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab, and Union Ministers, bragging no politician could take action against him;

-he told the woman who had the courage to speak out that he got ‘Dera Manager’ Faqir Chand murdered, a case that has still not ben solved.

Given that what the girl wrote is true, is there any difference between GRR and say Baghdadi who was / is raping captive women daily?

The fifth question is was the above public letter investigated to establish its veracity, with the woman explicitly saying “similarly, girls from Sirsa, Hissar, Fatehabad, Hanuman Garh, and Meerut disclose as to what happened to them in the ‘dera’?

It should have been a simple task to infiltrate the ‘dera’ and extract the truth, and from the girls who managed to get out and escape? The girl wrote that GRR had been raping girls even before raping her the first time. So have we let GRR, whose body language speaks for itself, continue with daily rapes for weeks, months and years?

The sixth question is that with the case reportedly having been filed in 2005, why has it taken 12 years to pronounce the verdict, and is the delay linked to vote-banks?

The seventh question is about the ‘pathetic’ police response. Not only were huge crowds permitted (political direction?) but even obvious targets like the media, railway stations and government offices were not properly secured. There were photo-ops of police officers before the verdict but no police officer was seen leading police column against rioters. All this, with Harayana Police having 4 x DGPs (drawing pay equivalent to Army Commanders) and 8 x ADGPs. What a shame that rapist GRR had to be escorted out of the court by the Army – doesn’t the state have any confidence in the Police?

The eighth question is about state “collusion”; the crowds, the SUV convoy bringing the rapist to court, being flown out in a chopper, and now in jail in the same natty outfit confirms it.

Diehards on social media say rioting was engineered by the opposition but even if that were true, why were such crowds permitted in the first place? There was little doubt that the state was aware of happenings inside the ‘dera’ all these years, yet politicians of all hues crawled up to GRR to garner electoral support.

According to another die hard, this ‘was essential to change the system, adding “It will perhaps take another century to change the system”. Little wonder then that William Dalrymple’s new book to be published ‘The Anarchy: How a Corporation Replaced the Mughal Empire, 1756-1803’ talks of a set up gripping India, far more dangerous than the British East India Company. But then we already have the 1993 Vohra Committee Report, quietly buried away lest it explodes the Hamam. Despite the verdict, a serving MP terms GRR a “simple man”, raising doubts whether the MP too is also indulging in similar ‘simple’ ways.

The ninth question is has Army become the first line of defence for ‘law and order’ also and is this because of politicization and criminalization of the police? Post the yesteryear’s Jat agitation causing considerable loss of life and property, the MHA appointed a one-man inquiry by former DG BSF Parakash Singh that indicted a number of officers of Haryana Police by name but ‘nothing’ happened to them. Why so, is pretty obvious because they would be privy to all types of shady happenings; politico-builders and other mafias.

The tenth question is despite all this, why is the military soldier being given lower pay and allowances compared to the police and PMF? What answer does the Defence Minister have to the degradation of the military, even while claiming the military is important for becoming a ‘super power’?

The eleventh question is are we going to see a repeat of August 25 on August 28 when the punishment for GRR is announced and why the punishment could not be announced on August 25 itself? Sure, award of the punishment requires a few hours of discussion, but could notthe Court have started early in the day and finished both by evening, given the explosive situation that was building up?

The twelfth and final question is are we going to learn anything from the Panchkula debacle or is it going to be ‘business as usual’? How have we landed up in a situation where a former judge of the Supreme Court, whatever his idiosyncrasies, is publicly stating that the only solution left is a revolution with politicians hung or shot?

(Lt General P.C.Katoch is a veteran of the Special Forces)