Did Dera Incite Haryana Violence? Court Asks For Tapped Phone Messages
Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim had made a last-minute appeal for peace.
A High Court order suggests there were secret phone calls from Dera sect
The court asked police to produce details about these phone calls
Ram Rahim Singh was found guilty of rape; his followers then went violent
Hours before self-styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim set out for Panchkula court from his sprawling 800-acre base in Sirsa on Friday, the Dera Sacha Sauda chief had put out a video message. In this, he was seen asking the tens of thousands of the Dera followers who had reached Panchkula to go back home.
But it may not be the only message that went out of Dera Sauda Sacha.
An order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Saturday – the court’s third hearing in two days – suggests there may have been other secret dispatches from the Dera headquarters as well. These may have been picked up by the police eavesdropping into phone conversations of Dera leaders.
After Ram Rahim’s conviction, his supporters massed near Panchkula’s special court went berserk. (AFP)
The high court has asked the police to produce details about these phone calls.
“The reports of interception of the messages given by the Dera Sacha Sauda inciting violence shall be submitted in this court in a sealed cover,” the order by the high court’s three-judge bench led by Acting Chief Justice SS Saron said.
Furious at the conduct of the followers who went on the rampage after the court held Ram Rahim guilty of rape in addition to the state government that had let them gather in such large numbers, the high court also asked the Haryana and Punjab governments to come up with plans and strategy to prevent such kind of incidents in future.
After Ram Rahim’s conviction, thousands of his supporters massed near Panchkula’s special court went berserk, burning cars, damaging property and targeting residents. The violence spread to other towns in Haryana and parts of Punjab.
The police was able to disperse the mob only after they opened fire in Panchkula, seen as a peaceful second option to adjoining Chandigarh. By the end of the day, the violence had cost nearly two dozen lives. More people admitted to hospital with injuries also died later, pushing the toll .
But the shady phone calls aren’t the only evidence to suggest that the Dera hadn’t played straight.
Two followers are heard discussing the “samaan” to be taken, an apparent reference to weapons and ammunition. “Take the stuff, don’t show off, be discreet. Take them out only when needed…” one of the supporters is heard telling the other in Punjabi.
“Pitaji (Ram Rahim) has especially said not to take his name if anyone asks why they have come. Tell them to say they have come on their own will,” one of the supporters says in the conversation.
The two further plans how to carry out the ‘hamla’ (attack) in Panchkula ahead of the verdict on Friday that sparked violent clashes, leaving 36 dead and over 200 wounded.
He further instructs the person, whom he refers to as ‘brother’, that even the parents of kids should be told they should not take “pitaji’s” name.
The two are also heard discussing that 300-350 people have already been dispatched in two buses and five to six tempos to Panchkula, ahead of the verdict. They also discuss that langar (food) arrangements have to be made for the “sangat” (congregation, referring to the crowd that gathers).
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted yesterday for raping two women in 2002.
The high court also took note of a report in a local newspaper that accused five Dera functionaries including its spokesperson Aditya Insan of instigating and inciting the crowd to violence. The judges asked the police to check with the reporter if he stood by his report.
“If he stands by the same, FIR (police complaint) be immediately registered against those persons,” the court said.
During the hearing, the high court also admonished the Manohar Lal Khattar government for letting the situation escalate and letting the city “burn for political motives”.