None guilty of may­hem that killed 36

423 peo­ple were hurt af­ter Ram Rahim’s fol­low­ers went on ram­page

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - Htregion - Tan­bir Dhali­wal

PANCHKULA: On this day (Au­gust 25) three years ago in 2017, Panchkula burnt. The big­gest ri­ots of the state left 36 dead and 423 in­jured, as mobs of fol­low­ers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim went on a ram­page af­ter a CBI spe­cial court found him guilty of rap­ing two women dis­ci­ples.

Po­lice record shows that 29 build­ings, gov­ern­ment and pri­vate, were dam­aged. The dera fol­low­ers burnt 74 ve­hi­cles in­clud­ing two fire brigades, three Out­sta­tion Broadcasti­ng (OB) vans of news chan­nels, one school bus and dam­aged 57 ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing one am­bu­lance. Panchkula Po­lice also seized five pis­tols/ re­volvers, four ri­fles, in­clud­ing an AK 47, two guns, one Mauser and 58 ve­hi­cles.

Yet for all this may­hem and de­struc­tion, no one has been con­victed. Aditya In­saan, a for­mer spokesper­son of the dera, fled the spot just be­fore mob turned vi­o­lent. He con­tin­ues to carry a po­lice re­ward of Rs 5 lakh on his head and was de­clared a Pro­claimed Of­fender (PO) on May 21 this year.

177 FIRS LODGED

Panchkula Po­lice reg­is­tered 177

FIRS against 2,318 ac­cused; of this, 20 FIRS were clubbed on court di­rec­tion. “There are 2,318 ac­cused, with some com­mon in many cases. In to­tal, 1,145 per­sons have been ar­rested and are fac­ing trial,” said a po­lice of­fi­cial. The po­lice could not trace five cases, and the re­main­ing 152 cases were in district court, Panchkula. “To date, none has been con­victed,” ac­cord­ing to po­lice data. At least 33 ac­cused in

eight cases have been ac­quit­ted.

EIGHT CASES HAVE FALLEN FLAT

Nine Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Teams (SITS) were formed to in­ves­ti­gate vi­o­lence cases, yet cases are fall­ing flat in the court. The first case fell flat in the court on April 30, 2018, was re­lated to FIR 415 of 2017, reg­is­tered in Sec­tor 5.

Six per­sons, ac­cused of ri­ot­ing and snatch­ing at Hafed Chowk, were ac­quit­ted. They had been ar­rested on the com­plaint of a Mo­hali-based photo jour­nal­ist, whose video cam­era and tri­pod was snatched. The court ac­quit­ted them as the ‘pros­e­cu­tion lacked ev­i­dence’.

This year, the 8th dera vi­o­lence case (FIR 363) fell flat as an ad­di­tional district and ses­sions judge ac­quit­ted 10 dera fol­low­ers, ac­cused of at­tempt to mur­der, riot and dam­ag­ing public prop­erty. The three eye­wit­ness that the pros­e­cu­tion pre­sented failed to iden­tify the ac­cused, and said that a mob set the fire ten­der ablaze. Here, a fire­man was in­jured af­ter dera fol­low­ers at­tacked the fire ten­der.

In a 19-page judg­ment, the judge held that the pros­e­cu­tion was not able to estab­lish its case beyond rea­son­able doubt. The or­der read that the iden­tity of the ac­cused per­sons was not es­tab­lished in the present case.

A per­son was ac­quit­ted of crim­i­nal in­tim­i­da­tion on June 4, 2018. Six were ac­quit­ted in FIR 362 of 2017 on July 30, 2018. Five were ac­quit­ted on Novem­ber 15, 2018, of snatch­ing. On May 9, 2019, five per­sons were ac­quit­ted.

The most im­por­tant is FIR num­ber 345 of 2017, reg­is­tered in Sec­tor 5. It names 40 ac­cused, in­clud­ing In­saan, whose role is con­sid­ered cru­cial in plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion of ri­ots, and three other ac­cused.

When ques­tioned on the lack of con­vic­tion and the fall­ing flat of eight cases, Panchkula po­lice com­mis­sioner Sau­rabh Singh said, “Many main cases are pend­ing in court and are un­der trial. In many cases of vi­o­lence, there is no spe­cific ev­i­dence col­lected from the spot. We are study­ing why cases are end­ing up in ac­quit­tal.”

HT FILE PHOTO

74 ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing two fire brigades, three OB vans of news chan­nels and one school bus, were burnt and 57 ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing one am­bu­lance, were dam­aged.

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