Cosy ties between BJP, Ram Rahim lead to death, mayhem in Punjab, Haryana?
Chandigarh, August 26: On a day when Haryana, Punjab and neighbouring areas of the national capital were hijacked by the supporters of self-proclaimed godman, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of the Dera Sacha Sauda, who was held guilty of raping his two female followers (sadhvis) by a CBI special court in Panchkula, Haryana, on Friday, the deafening silence maintained by the leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spoke volumes about the tactical support enjoyed by religious leaders from the political class in the country.
Even the most-articulated BJP spokespersons stayed away from television news debates when violence and mayhem unfolded on the streets of North India which led to the death of at least 31 people in Haryana and Punjab. Reports say more than 300 people sustained injuries and properties worth crores of rupees were damaged when state machineries stood quietly and let rioters go on a rampage as a judge after looking into all the evidences decided to pronounce the godman guilty of his crime.
The rape case against Dera chief goes back to 2002, when two of his former women followers decided to go public about the sexual exploitation of sadhvis by the godman and other male members in the dera (camp) headquartered in Sirsa, Haryana.
Ram Rahim has two more such deras, one each in Punjab and Maharashtra. The Dera chief claims to enjoy the support of more than five crore people, mostly in the northern states of the country.
If we look into numbers, five crore is huge and our political class sees the godman as a "bank" that can easily help them win votes. So, even after cases of rapes and murders were being investigated against Ram Rahim, he always enjoyed political patronage from almost all parties, including the BJP, the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
In 2014, just before the Lok Sabha elections, BJP president Amit Shah had a meeting with the Dera chief where Ram Rahim promised his support to the saffron party. Since then, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who is leading the BJP government in the state, has been seen with the godman in public on several occasions.
The BJP, in fact, openly showed its closeness to the godman, who has also starred in several outlandish movies. Just a few days before the conviction of the Dera chief, the Haryana government gave Rs 50 lakh to him for development of sports in his camp.
On Friday, when the CBI convicted Ram Rahim as a rapist, BJP member of Parliament (MP) Sakshi Maharaj came out in support of the Dera chief calling him a "noble soul" and said the entire episode was to malign the reputation of Indian culture.
The saffron-clad leader also went ahead saying that the court should not have ignored the huge support enjoyed by Ram Rahim.
"One person alleging sexual exploitation but crores stand with him today. Who is correct? One crore people who are supporting Baba or that girl who was raped?" he questioned.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his campaign in 2014 Lok Sabha elections praised Ram Rahim during a public rally. Later, the PM tweeted expressing his admiration for the godman for taking up the cause of Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign.
The role of BJP in giving tactical support to the godman was proved when in spite of having enough intelligence inputs about the likelihood of eruption of violence in Haryana and neighbouring places if Ram Rahim would be convicted was strategically ignored by the BJP government in the state.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had pulled up the Haryana government for not stopping the march of around 1.5 lakh Dera followers to Panchkula before the verdict. The state machineries could have easily restricted the death and violence had it imposed Section 144 of the CrPC ahead of the court verdict to avoid assembly of so many agitated people in Panchkula.
The BJP and the Khattar government clearly did not want to antagonise the followers of the godman to impose restrictions on them and thus led riot erupt in most parts of the northern India. Now, will the BJP stand up and take blame for neglecting its main responsibility to provide safety to the citizens?