The Quint – BJP backs rapist Ram Rahim’s parole: A recap of their close ties

Chandigarh – Haryana – India, 01 July 2019. The BJP government in Haryana appears to have come out in support of giving parole to rape convicted godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan of the Dera Sacha Sauda. Haryana’s Jail Minister Krishan Lal Panwar has said that parole is Ram Rahim’s right if his conduct is good.

Along with Panwar, Haryana’s minister for health and sports affairs Anil Vij is also reported to have supported giving parole to Ram Rahim citing his “good behaviour”.

Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has said that “no final decision” had been taken on the matter but asserted that “seeking parole is the right of every prisoner”.

The view of the Haryana government is at variance with the Punjab and Haryana High Court which said that giving parole to Ram Rahim could lead to a law and order problem in the two states. And legally the BJP’s argument that “parole is the right of every prisoner” doesn’t hold if it is likely to cause law and order problems.

So why is the BJP going soft on a rapist like Ram Rahim? The answer could possibly lie in the party’s political compulsions ahead of the Haryana Assembly elections due later this year.

Ram Rahim’s Dera Sacha Sauda is said to have supported the BJP and its allies in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Haryana Assembly elections later that year, the 2017 Assembly polls in Punjab and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Dera enjoys considerable influence in Haryana and Punjab, particularly among a section of Dalits and this makes it a crucial player during elections. Not just BJP, its ally Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress have also hobnobbed with Ram Rahim at some point of time or the other.

But since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Dera has consistently been supporting the BJP and the SAD. The BJP, too, has reciprocated by showering praise on Ram Rahim at various forums.

For instance in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Ram Rahim’s efforts in promoting the Swachh Bharat Mission. This is despite the fact that at that time Ram Rahim was still being tried for raping two women.

In a rally during the Haryana Assembly election campaign, Prime Minister Modi openly praised Ram Rahim once again. In that election, Ram Rahim is said to have issued a clear diktat to his followers to support the BJP.

According to reports, BJP president helped seal the deal with Ram Rahim. The report said that Shah met Ram Rahim in the first week of October and “sought his blessings” for the Assembly elections in Haryana.

The report said that six days after the meeting with Shah, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya took 44 BJP candidates for the Haryana polls to meet the Dera chief for his “blessings”. Several leaders of the Haryana BJP were known to be close to Ram Rahim.

The most prominent among them is state minister Ram Bilas Sharma. There is a video in which Sharma can be seen prostrating in front of Ram Rahim. He also donated Rs 51 lakh to the Dera but later withdrew the donation after facing public criticism.

When Dera supporters went on rampage after Ram Rahim’s conviction, Sharma described them as “peace-loving people who wouldn’t even harm a plant”. He even went to the extent of saying that Section 144 being imposed didn’t apply to Dera supporters.

The other major backer of Ram Rahim in the Haryana BJP is of course the same minister supporting his parole: Anil Vij. health minister Anil Vij. In 2016, Vij donated Rs 50 lakh from state funds to Ram Rahim’s sports project.

Another minister, Manish Grover, donated Rs 11 lakh to the Dera from his discretionary fund.

The BJP’s cosy relationship with Ram Rahim extends to chief minister Khattar as well. He can be seen taking part in Dera Sacha Sauda’s cleanliness campaign here.

And here is KL Panwar, who is now batting for Ram Rahim’s parole, at the same event.

The BJP has been quite open about its support for Ram Rahim, despite his conviction in the rape case. Even in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Manohar Lal Khattar said that he will seek support from Dera Sacha Sauda.

The Dera is said to have supported the NDA in the Lok Sabha elections, contributing to the BJP’s sweep in Haryana and the Akali Dal’s victory in the Bathinda and Ferozepur Lok Sabha seats.

With the Haryana Assembly elections due in a few months time, it is not surprising that the BJP is once again bending over backwards to appease the Dera. But it remains to be seen what it means for the Akalis, who are facing flak in Punjab after the Ranjit Singh commission has reportedly found the Badals and the Dera of being behind the sacrilege incidents of 2015.

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The Asian Age – Will go to court if Ram Rahim is granted parole: Son of murdered journalist

The journalist was killed in Sirsa after his newspaper published an anonymous letter alleging sexual exploitation of women by Ram Rahim.

Sirsa – Haryana – India, 25 Jun 2019. The son of the murdered journalist on Tuesday said he will go to court if the Haryana government grants parole to self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

“Every individual who has served two years in prison has the right to appeal for parole, but it is up to the government to grant it. Ram Rahim played with law and order. He should not be granted parole,” Anshul Chhatrapati, son of Ram Chander Chhatrapati who was killed by Ram Rahim and his henchmen.

The journalist was killed in Sirsa after his newspaper published an anonymous letter alleging sexual exploitation of women by Ram Rahim at his Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters.

“He had my father killed just because he published a story against him. If he is freed, our lives could be at risk. It can also affect the outcome of the pending cases against him,” Anshul said, appealing to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to intervene.

Sirsa Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajesh Kumar said, “A decision cannot be taken as some departments are yet to submit their reports to the government.”

Ram Rahim, who is serving life imprisonment in Rohtak’s Sunaria jail for the murder of the journalist and 20 years in prison for raping two of his women followers, had sought parole in a letter to the jail authorities.

Earlier today, the chief minister had said that the state government has not yet taken a decision on Ram Rahim’s appeal for parole.

The Hindu – Post-poll survey: a mixed bag for BJP in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab

While the BJP swept Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir saw a split verdict and Punjab provided some comfort for the Congress

Sandeep Shastri

Srinagar/Chandigarh, 30 May 2019. Today we report on the smaller States and one Union Territory of north India, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Delhi. Except in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, this region saw an electoral landslide in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP achieved a 100% strike rate in these areas.

While the BJP repeated its 2014 performance in terms of seats in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi, it is important to note that it secured a much higher vote share and won by a much bigger margin than it did in 2014 in these States. Haryana is now an addition to the category of States where the BJP won all the seats.

In Jammu and Kashmir, there was a split verdict. The BJP won in Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh, while the National Conference won in Anantnag, Baramulla and Srinagar. Punjab went against the trend in north India and provided some comfort for the Congress party.

Implications for State polls

The electoral contest in Delhi had garnered a lot of attention in view of the moves made by many non-BJP leaders to ensure a seat-sharing arrangement between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Such an arrangement, it was felt, would prevent the split of the non-BJP vote. An alliance was not forged ultimately as both parties were unwilling to concede to each other’s demands.

The Congress wanted an exclusive seat-sharing arrangement for Delhi, while the AAP was in favour of a broader arrangement that included Punjab and Haryana. The BJP retained all seven seats in the capital by impressive margins of victory.

What is significant is that the Congress was able to push the AAP to a distant third position in the electoral battle. This will have important implications for next year’s Assembly election.

The BJP also achieved a clean sweep in Himachal Pradesh. The Modi factor and the Balakot strikes played an important role in the party’s success. Infighting in the Congress was a key factor that contributed to the party’s inability to open its account in the State. Himachal Pradesh was also witness to a dual pro-incumbency sentiment as the government in the State is also a BJP government.

Haryana saw one of the keenest electoral contests in this region. The BJP had the advantage of facing a divided Opposition. It launched an aggressive campaign focusing on the Prime Minister, the Balakot strikes and its own ‘idea of India’.

In the recent past, the BJP State government too had improved its image. This helped to boost its prospects. The Union Cabinet’s approval of 10% reservation for the economically backward in the general category also made a difference in attracting Jat votes. Haryana also saw a clean sweep by the BJP.

Some wins for the Opposition

Jammu and Kashmir saw distinct regions of the State voting differently. The BJP retained its monopoly in the Jammu and Ladakh regions. In the Kashmir Valley, the National Conference, which was in alliance with the Congress, was able to beat the challenge from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and win all the three seats.

This clear divide gains significance as the State prepares for Assembly polls. This trend indicates that it could well be a split verdict like the last time round.

In Punjab the Congress was able to win a majority of the seats, and double its 2014 tally. The National Democratic Alliance partners, the Akali Dal and the BJP, were able to win only four seats. The AAP was able to retain just one seat. The decline of this party is truly the story of this election as is the revival of the Congress’s fortunes in a Lok Sabha election from the State.

The NDA partners were unable to get their act together. The detailed article on Punjab makes the important point that the AAP vote has shifted to both the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress.

While the Other Backward Classes Hindu vote has moved to the Congress, the upper caste Hindu vote has moved to the NDA alliance, more specifically the BJP. A segment of the Jat Sikh vote seems to have moved from the Akali Dal to the Congress.

The articles provided a detailed outline of the results in the five small States and one Union Territory of north India and reflect the diversity of trends in this region.

Sandeep Shastri is the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Jain University, Bengaluru, and the national co-ordinator of the Lokniti network

The Hindu – Tough test for the BJP in Haryana

Political analyst says farmers’ issues could impact outcome, but party buoyed by Jind bypoll win.

Vikas Vasudeva

Chandigarh – Haryana – India, 11 May 2019. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP almost swept Haryana riding on the “Modi” wave and an undercurrent of anger against the ruling Congress for alleged regional biases in recruitment and development.

For the May 12 election in the State, the voters are, however, set to rate the ruling BJP on its performance and fulfillment of election promises in the State and the Centre.

In 2014, the BJP won seven of the 10 seats and the Indian National Lok Dal two. The Congress retained just the Rohtak seat, won by Deepender Singh Hooda, son of the then Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The BJP contested eight seats, while its then ally, the Haryana Janhit Congress, lost the two it contested.

A leading political analyst in the State opines that in 2014, the BJP benefited from a confluence of favourable factors.

“Apart from the undercurrent [against the Congress] and Modi wave, Jat division and non-Jat consolidation proved to be a catalyst in 2014,” said Kushal Pal, Head of the Department of Political Science at Dyal Singh College in Karnal.

“Also, the BJP got the support of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, which helped the party in a big way as north Haryana has a sizeable strength of Dera supporters. Another factor that worked in the BJP’s favour was the crossing over of senior Congress leaders like Birendra Singh and Rao Inderjeet Singh,” he said.

This time, however, the performance of the BJP at the Centre and in the State are likely to be a larger factor in influencing voting intentions. The recent win in the Jind Assembly election and victories in the municipal polls in five cities have buoyed the BJP’s confidence.

However, with the Congress fielding seasoned campaigners like Kumari Selja and Ashok Tanwar in many seats, the party is seen offering a “challenging fight”.

“People will assess the BJP on what has been delivered by it on key promises, which included two crore jobs, and this doesn’t look to be working in favour of the party,” Professor Pal said.

The BJP has been consistently evoking the national security issue. “Haryana sends its youth to the armed forces so air strikes post Pulwama and surgical strikes will find some favour. But with the BJP not in favour of farm loan waiver schemes, it could dent its farmer vote base,” he said.

The Congress is publicising its proposed ‘Nyay’ scheme, besides policies aimed at benefiting farmers.

“The grand old party is also banking on its old warhorses including former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his son Deepinder Singh Hooda,” observed Mr. Pal. “Besides, it has fielded heavyweight leaders including Kumari Selja, Ashok Tanwar and Kuldeep Sharma to not let the election be a cakewalk for the BJP,” he added.

This time, the INLD’s breakaway faction, the Jannayak Janta Party, is in the fray and is contesting seven seats in alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The Indian Express – Mohali: Police bust terror module, arrest 5 Babbar Khalsa men

Police also recovered a .32 bore pistol along with a magazine and four live cartridges and 15 letter pads of the BKI from the accused.

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 01 April 2019. In a major breakthrough, the State Special Operation Cell (SSOC) of the Punjab Police busted a terror module and arrested five “highly radicalised” members of the banned Babbar Khalsa International (BKI).

Police also recovered a .32 bore pistol along with a magazine and four live cartridges and 15 letter pads of the BKI from the accused.

Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of SSOC, Mohali, Varinder Paul Singh, said that acting on a tip off they had busted a militant module comprising of highly radicalised youth, who were planning to kill specific targets, including Hindu leaders and members of Dera Sacha Sauda.

Those arrested include Harvinder Singh, a resident of Rally village in Sector 12, Panchkula, Sultan Singh, a resident of Saidpura village in Kurukshetra, Haryana, Karamjeet Singh, a resident of Raoke Kalan village in Moga district, Lovepreet Singh, a resident of Baliyan village in Sangrur district and, Gurpreet Singh alias Preet, a resident of Sector 20-C, Chandigarh.

Three other accused who were named in the FIR, but are yet to be arrested, are Rupinder Singh, a resident of Niwasri village in Kurukshetra district in Haryana, Daler Singh Bunty, a resident of Rohini in New Delhi and Ranjit Singh, a resident of Pakhoke village in Gurdaspur district. Ranjit Singh is a former chief of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) and is based in Germany, police said.

It is always difficult to make out what are facts or fiction in these stories. I suspect that the people arrested are in favour of Khalistan and have grudges against leaders of the Dera Sacha Sauda and certain radical Hindu leaders. But one .32 bore pistol and 15 letter pads are not very convincing evidence of serious offences planeed.
Man in Blue – Kaithal attack: SGPC announces financial aid for victim Sikhs

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 26 March 2019. The apex Sikh body Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has announced financial aid for the Sikhs who were attacked by the Hindus of Badsui village on March 23.

The family of deceased Sikh Shamsher Singh will be given a financial aid of Rupees 2,00,000/- while all the other injured Sikhs will be given financial aid worth 25,000/- each.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal made this announcement while meeting the injured Sikhs at Rajendra Hospital in Patiala on March 25.

Strongly criticizing the attack, Longowal said that the attacks on minorities in India are rising day by day. He added that the Union government of India and the state governments need to adopt strong strategies to tackle such attacks.

It may be recalled here that the Hindu villagers of Badsui village (Kaithal) had attacked Gurdwara Sahib on March 23 in which an innocent Sikh Shamsher Singh had lost life and several others were injured.

The assailants had even tried to attack the holy corpus of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji but the Sikh men present inside the Gurdwara premises didn’t let them succeed. – Hindu villagers attack Gurdwara Sahib in Kaithal; 50 year old Sikh lost life, 16 others injured

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 24 March 2019. An innocent Sikh Shamsher Singh (50) reportedly lost life and several others got injured in an attack on a Gurdwara Sahib of Badsui village of Kaithal (Haryana) by the Hindu villagers.

It is learnt that the Hindu assailants even tried to attack the holy corpus of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji but the Sikh men present inside the Gurdwara premises succeeded in defending the holy corpus.

Sikh24 has learnt that the Sikhs were attacked in a pre-planned way by the Hindus as there was a longstanding dispute of land between the two communities of Badsui village.

A few months ago, the issue was resolved with the interference of village Panchayat but the Hindu villagers crossed the line of mutual understanding in a deliberated way and later attacked the Sikhs showing hooliganism over the minority.

An injured Sikh told the media that the Hindu villagers erected a boundary wall in the night while illegally taking possession of Gurdwara Sahib’s land.

“When we (Sikhs) gathered together in the morning hours and went to the Temple to express our objection to their move, they attacked us due to which one of us lost life while several others got injured,” he added.

The injured Sikh further informed that the Hindu villagers then attacked on Gurdwara Sahib while hurling stones and bricks, but the Sikhs present there succeeded in shielding the Gurdwara premises.

“One of us died and two others got seriously injured during this attack while we eight are getting treatment here in the local hospital,” he said while adding that the seriously injured have been transferred to PGI, Chandigarh.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that a case has been registered against 35 Hindu villagers and the Police has rounded up 17 Hindu assailants. The police has also destroyed the illegal wall constructed by the Hindu villagers during the darkness of the night hours.

A Special Investigation Team has been also constituted to probe the incident.

The Hindu – Tension grips Haryana village as demonstrators tell residents to oust Kashmiri students

Ashok Kumar

Gurugram – Haryana – India, 16 February 2019. Tension gripped Mullana village in Haryana’s Ambala on Saturday after some demonstrators told the villagers to oust Kashmiri students who were staying on rent there.

The students are pursuing courses at the Maharishi Markandeshwar University. The demonstrators are said to have told the villagers that the students’ activities were “suspicious”.

They threatened to hold demonstrations outside the houses of villagers who did not send the students away within 24 hours. Announcements were made on loudspeaker too. A video of the situation in Mullana began to circulate on social media.

Police have requested the university authorities to accommodate the students in a hostel on campus.

Ambala Superintendent of Police Astha Modi told The Hindu over phone that the comments in the video were “misdirected” but the situation on the ground was “perfectly normal”. She said that security had been stepped up at the village and around the campus.

“We are speaking to the sarpanches to ensure that no more provocative videos are shot and no one indulges in this kind of activity. We are looking into the security of these students,” said Ms. Modi, adding that there was no formal complaint registered against the shooting of the video.

Sultan Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police, said “We have supplied our phone numbers to students and asked them to get in touch if they face any harassment.”

J K Sharma, the university’s dean of students welfare, said around a hundred off-campus students have now been accommodated in the hostel. He said the university had adequate security arrangements and it was safe inside the campus.

Two police personnel were also deployed at the Technology Education and Research Integrated Institutions campus in Kurukshetra in Haryana. M.P. Gupta, adviser to the trust running the institutions, said there were around 15 Kashmiri students in the hostel. – Three Sikh youths sentenced to life just for possessing printed material about Sikh martyrs

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 06 February 2019. A Nawanshehar based Court of Additional Sessions Judge Randhir Sharma on February 5 addressed life imprisonment to three Sikh youths namely Arwinder Singh (Nawashehr), Surjit Singh (Gurdaspur) and Ranjit Singh (Kaithal, Haryana) just for possessing printed biography of Shaheed Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar, photographs of 13 martyred Sikhs of 1978 and a mobile phone.

The trio Sikh youths have been addressed life sentence by holding them guilty under sections 121 (waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India) and 121-A (conspiring to commit offences punishable by section 121) of the Indian Penal Code.

It may be recalled here that all of these Sikh youths were arrested in May 2016 by the police. Later, the police had cooked a “special story” about their arrest and had claimed recovery of 97 books, 198 photographs, 13 photographs of 1978’s martyrs and 1000 books related to Shaheed Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar while accusing one of these Sikh youths of pasting pro-Khalistan posters at Sri Anandpur Sahib.

The judgment of the case reveals that the Judge sentenced the trio Sikh youths just on the basis of the statements given by 21 prosecution witnesses. Interestingly, all of these prosecution witnesses were the Police cops.

Meanwhile, Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur has stated that the Court’s verdict has many flaws and the Judge delivered a biased decision proving himself a tool of the Indian state.

The Hindustan Times – Living with the past: How Rakhigarhi residents share space with the remains of one of India’s ancient cities

Haryana’s Rakhigarhi is much like any other Indian village. Except that it was once a Harappan city. For residents, it is no longer a surprise to have scholars find history in their fields’

Poulomi Banerjee

Rakhigarhi – Haryana – India, 02 February 2019. Many of the streets of Rakhigarhi, Haryana, are cobbled or bricked. But it’s often difficult to see the road surface, so covered is it with dried animal dung. As in most rural households in India, animals are a part of nearly every household. Milk is rarely, if ever, bought.

Butter is made fresh, at home. And dried dung cakes are used to light fires for warmth through the freezing winters, heat water and often cook. “Even people with gas connections use dried dung cake fires to heat water and to cook.

There’s a different flavour to the food, when cooked in an earthen pot over an open flame,” explains Vicky Malik, a Rakhigarhi resident, as he stands on a high mound beyond which stretches fields of wheat and yellow blossoming mustard.

Near his feet, as indeed across most of the mound, are scattered round, flattened cakes made of animal dung – in various states of dryness. Beneath the waste lie the remains of the Indian subcontinent’s earliest-known urban culture.

Three years ago, a team of archaeologists working under Vasant Shinde of Pune’s Deccan College, found skeletons in one of the farmlands in the village. The cemetery they uncovered dated back to the Indus Valley Civilisation that had flourished in the subcontinent between 2600-1900 BCE.

The locals weren’t surprised. Rakhigarhi’s introduction to its ties with the past had begun years ago.

Finding the lost town

The revelation of Rakhigarhi’s links to history was quite accidental, recalls archaeologist Ravindra Singh Bisht, who specialises in the study of the Indus Valley Civilisation – or Harappan Civilisation, as it is often called, after the name of the village in present-day Pakistan, where the first site of that ancient culture was discovered, sometime in the 1920s.

“Acharya Bhagwan Dev headed a gurukul in Jhajjar, Haryana. He was also a collector of antiquities. Once, on a trip to Rakhigarhi, he found some old earthenware urns and other things in the soil here, but was unable to identify them,” explains Bisht.

Dev invited Suraj Bhan, a professor who was studying the Harappan era, to examine his findings. “It was Bhan who established that these antiquities dated to the Indus Valley Civilisation. This was in the 1960s,” he adds.

Bisht paid his first visit to Rakhigarhi in 1972. Though referred to collectively as Rakhigarhi, the area is made of two small villages – Rakhi Khas and Rakhi Shahpur – each with its own panchayat. The site of the old Harappan Civilisation spreads across both.

“Initially I identified five mounds where remains of the Harppan Civilisation could be found,” he says. Later he found two more with remains of a pre Harappan (or early-Harappan as some call it) settlement and recommended that they be all declared as ‘protected monuments’ by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Presently four of the seven mounds are ASI-protected. The others are too thickly populated at present to bring them under protection, says an ASI official. It was the reason why Bisht never did any excavations at Rakhigarhi.

“Some of the biggest mounds were under occupation. I felt I could not do justice to the study in such a situation,” says the archaeologist, who has done extensive work in Dholavira, another site of the Harappan Civilization.