None guilty of mayhem that killed 36
423 people were hurt after Ram Rahim’s followers went on rampage
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.”
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.