OPINION

Monthly Archives: AUGUST 2017


Need to urgently address disquiet over multiple crises
Dera through the Punjab lens
29.08.17 - Amandeep Sandhu
Dera through the Punjab lens



It was a decade ago that the shroud of banality ‘Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan’ spun fell on Punjab, in particular the Sikh community. I saw it first-hand in the summer of 2007 when my mother lay dying from stage IV cancer in Mandi Dabwali, south Punjab, 40 km from Sirsa where he is the head of a Dera. Soon after Baisakhi that year, Gurmeet Singh — whose rise remains shrouded in mystery and who was already charged with rape and accused in the murder of journalist Ramchandra Chhatrapati — had imitated the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh’s clothing and ritual Khande di Pahul while conducting the initiation for the followers of his cult, the Dera Sacha Sauda.
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Punjab is sending out a signal: it is shunning violence. Do not mistake this shunning of violence as an absence of disquiet.
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The Sikh faith disallows the use of the term Sacha Sauda and anyone dressing up as a guru, the term because it is associated with the first guru, Guru Nanak. When he was younger, Guru Nanak’s father gave him some money for trade, which he used instead to feed the poor and hungry. When his father asked if the deal was good, he answered it was a true deal — a sacha sauda. Though no one knows how Guru Gobind had dressed in the year 1699 at the inauguration of the Khalsa, the 20th century painter Sobha Singh had formalised the look of some of the gurus and the Sikh community had accepted the pictorial representation as an article of faith. When the self-styled godman parodied this, the Sikhs reacted. The Dera followers, called Premis (lovers), were at war against the Sikhs. The police stepped in. Curfew was imposed. Desperately and helplessly trapped, I could not leave my mother’s side. Punjab remained frozen for weeks. The community took this matter to its own court, the Akal Takht.

The rise of Gurmeet
In the last decade, the rise of the banality of Gurmeet Singh has known no bounds. He has taken on every available moniker — saint, doctor, Ram, Rahim, Insaan — and parrots messages of peace and harmony while leading a degenerate life. He has amassed Guinness world records for the largest vegetable mosaic, highest number of birthday greetings, eye scan and blood donation camps. His biography lists over 50 talents in the arts and sports. His atrocious self-promotional movies succeeded at the box office and further established the strength of numbers of his followers. Owing to his reach in the political constituencies of south Punjab and Haryana, political parties of all hues — the Akalis, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress — have patronised him. Groups of Sikhs and Premis clashed, there were attempts on his life, but he seemed above the law — a power not only unto himself but a power broker in Haryana and Punjab. 

In autumn 2015, the State froze over incidents of sacrilege of the Sikh Holy Book. Again Gurmeet Singh was involved, for two reasons: one was his Dera’s alleged involvement in the stealing of a Granth Sahib from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village, random posters appearing in villages saying the Dera would target the Sikhs; the second was the Akal Takht, under the influence of then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal-controlled Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, finally pardoning Gurmeet Singh for the incidents of 2007, even though he never presented himself to the Takht. When Sikhs protested, the Akal Takht revoked the pardon but the anger of community against their institutions falling prey to the shenanigans of politicians led to the Sarbat Khalsa (plenary meeting) which remained inconclusive. Even the probes into the 150-odd incidents of sacrilege remained inconclusive.

Change in the air

Yet, something remarkable was unfolding. Whether it is river waters or lack of disclosure of the reasons to conduct Operation Blue Star or justice for victims of the anti-Sikh carnage of 1984 or probe into extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances during the militancy period of 1978-93, the Indian state has spectacularly failed in any attempt towards truth and reconciliation in a post-conflict Punjab society. But defying the dominant perception of the nation, even as the State was inflicted with desecrations, the people of Punjab — including Hindus and Muslims — curled up in anger. There were some provocations, but they were minor. Social media rage turned to black flags, large gatherings took place, local gurdwaras supported the protesters, but Punjab displayed extraordinary restraint. It did not spiral into violence. Once could be an exception but Punjab repeated it last week. The Dera Premi incidents in Panchkula left 38 dead and damage to properties in Haryana but not in Punjab.

Punjab is sending out a signal: it is shunning violence. Do not mistake this shunning of violence as an absence of disquiet. I see my mother in Punjab — multiple maladies, desperately waiting for medication and healing, which remains unavailable. The disquiet looms large in its agrarian and industrial crises, the utter lack of social and economic healing despite the change of governments. Now that the courts have acted, locked away one Baba, the next step should be to strengthen the people’s belief in systems of justice and address other long-standing grievances. It is only by establishing systems of individual and social justice that we can address post-conflict societies.
 
Amandeep Sandhu is working on a book on Punjab
Courtesy: thehindu.com
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Most shared Punjab Today articles:

RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS: The utter absence of any questions about the death of 30 people on the roads of a city reeking of wealth says something stinking about its conscience.

LET'S KILL PAASH: Dr Sumail Singh Sidhu unravels the layers of the latest row about the revolutionary poet’s work and asks why is Paash being summoned from the ashes to answer our allegations?

THE BLOODY VILLAIN OF PARTITION: As Radcliffe drew a line between India and Pakistan, resulting in 600,000 lives lost and 14 million displaced, we revisit the key question: Were the massacres avoidable, preventable?

A DOKLAM IN EVERY FIELD: Farmers not only produce food. They produce peace. And agitated farmers are no guarantee of a lasting peace. Not every danger lurks at Doklam. 
TO SUKHBIR SINGH BADAL, SINCE NO ONE ELSE WILL SAY IT: Speaking truth to power, and asking some tough questions to a party that refuses to behave like one. Does it even register the sense of a loss?

DECONSTRUCTING NAVJOT SINGH SIDHU: This is a duel -- pistols drawn, hands on hip, 20 steps across, aim taken, fingers on trigger. Right now, it looks like Amarinder has forgotten his gun home. Sidhu is itching to shoot. 

SURGICAL STRIKE YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT: Indian jawans killed everyone at this forward post of Pakistan and brought back seven bodies besides a trophy signed by Musharraf.

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: The English writing on Punjab has constructed an urbane Punjabi universe. Punjab is more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from the promise of modernity.

 

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Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

 ____________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:

RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS: The utter absence of any questions about the death of 30 people on the roads of a city reeking of wealth says something stinking about its conscience.

LET'S KILL PAASH: Dr Sumail Singh Sidhu unravels the layers of the latest row about the revolutionary poet’s work and asks why is Paash being summoned from the ashes to answer our allegations?

THE BLOODY VILLAIN OF PARTITION: As Radcliffe drew a line between India and Pakistan, resulting in 600,000 lives lost and 14 million displaced, we revisit the key question: Were the massacres avoidable, preventable?

A DOKLAM IN EVERY FIELD: Farmers not only produce food. They produce peace. And agitated farmers are no guarantee of a lasting peace. Not every danger lurks at Doklam. 
TO SUKHBIR SINGH BADAL, SINCE NO ONE ELSE WILL SAY IT: Speaking truth to power, and asking some tough questions to a party that refuses to behave like one. Does it even register the sense of a loss?

DECONSTRUCTING NAVJOT SINGH SIDHU: This is a duel -- pistols drawn, hands on hip, 20 steps across, aim taken, fingers on trigger. Right now, it looks like Amarinder has forgotten his gun home. Sidhu is itching to shoot. 

SURGICAL STRIKE YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT: Indian jawans killed everyone at this forward post of Pakistan and brought back seven bodies besides a trophy signed by Musharraf.

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: The English writing on Punjab has constructed an urbane Punjabi universe. Punjab is more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from the promise of modernity.
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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT






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Aam Aadmi in Panchkula
Relax! All 30 were dera premis
27.08.17 - SP Singh*
Relax! All 30 were dera premis



AS MEDIA HEADLINES swerved from 'Uneasy Calm, Situation Tense' to 'Mayhem in Panchkula, 30 Dead', the articulation of the narrative about democracy, rights of citizens, notions of peace, and the hyper engagement with the rather elusive construct of Aam Aadmi also travelled quite some distance.

The middle class conscience is a funny thing, and it swerves just as wildly in its relationship to a moral equilibrium. Just a couple of years back, it was resonating with much talk about the aam aadmi, and now it resonated with demands for unencumbered use of force against aam aadmi. Or were the hordes in Panchkula not covered by that term?

Let's settle some basic facts first. Allowing hordes of anxious if not agitated people to gather at one place was wrong if intelligence was available that it could lead to an untoward scenario. The obsequious deference that the regime displayed in dealing with a rape accused hardly upped the morale of the upright officers charged with maintaining peace. And the residents of Panchkula and other cities have every right to expect that they be allowed to live in peace, and not miss their morning walk in the peaceful verdant environs of the town's parks.
The middle class conscience is a funny thing, and it swerves just as wildly in its relationship to a moral equilibrium. Just a couple of years back, it was resonating with much talk about the aam aadmi, and now it resonated with demands for unencumbered use of force against aam aadmi. Or were the hordes in Panchkula not covered by that term?
 
Now that some of these postulates have already resonated with your point of view, may be you will stomach a few more points before throwing at me that weather-worn argument of 'But we are tax payers and State must protect us.' 

The thousands of people who lined up Panchkula's roads were aam aadmi. Yes, in the hyper-ventilating tone of the times, it becomes kosher to call them goons and worse, but the fact remains that in any such scenario, goons do their job with practised efficiency and the innocent hordes are left to make a run for their life in a manner most inefficient.

They run into bullets being fired by law enforcing sheriffs, or are overcome by induced emotions. They are trundled, castigated and branded as goons by anchors in TV studios. As scenes of torched and mangled vehicles make it to the screen at the speed of broadband and harried citizens explain breathlessly how they were cowering inside their houses, gasping for wi-fi, the marauder is identified. 'Someone who looks like a dera premi.' 

Three deaths, then six, and soon 13 dead. There is fear all around. In the space of a few more minutes, the toll touches 28, but then there's a reassuring fact on the scroll at the bottom of the TV screen: Most of the dead were dera followers. I have rarely seen such comforting calm descending upon an educated, shrine-going, peace-loving populace in so few seconds following the revelation of the identity of the dead outside their houses.

Next time we are confused who is an aam aadmi, look for pictorial proof. 
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The utter absence of any questions about the death of a score and a half people on the roads of a city reeking of wealth says something stinking about its conscience. Northeast or Kashmir is too far, and given the national fervour fed upon cow milk, and much else that is as holy as dung, it is understandable that citizens in large swathes of India do not question anymore why the security forces pump bullets directly into the protesting crowds.
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Of course a child cowering under the bed because there are hundreds of people milling outside her house for four or five days is bad. Of course, a mother trying to keep her young ones away from the window of her own house is hardly a reassurance that we live in a country where the state is duty bound to protect its citizens. The residents of the suburbs have every right to demand that the state fulfil its contract with the citizenry.

But the utter absence of any questions about the death of a score and a half people on the roads of a city reeking of wealth says something stinking about its conscience. Northeast or Kashmir is too far, and given the national fervour fed upon cow milk, and much else that is as holy as dung, it is understandable that citizens in large swathes of India do not question anymore why the security forces pump bullets directly into the protesting crowds.
 
'If they are pelting stones, you can pump bullets' is an argument that carries much currency. Now, if they are outside their homes, and some goons are indulging in arson, you can pump bullets and punctuate Panchkula's wide manicured roads with 30 corpses. We are just expanding the argument by expounding on it. It is only a matter of my personal curiosity to find out how far can we extrapolate: if they had burnt one house, and bullets had felled 130 people, would that have been okay, too? 

Yes, I know, if you have read till this point, that you have already stomached a lot of what I had to say, and that your patience is giving way. They could have burnt Panchkula. Didn't someone say on xyz channel that they will burn down Punjab and Haryana? TV crews were out on the morning of Saturday, speaking to residents who were grateful to the army, slamming the state administration, thanking God for the return of peace. "I was able to go for my morning walk after two days," said a middle aged man. 

Myriad TV channels beamed similar rambling conversations with residents, with not one referring to 30 dead people. Television has yet to find someone seeking psychological help because he or she saw 30 people being shot dead. The region's top circulation English-language daily, The Tribune, editorially commented on 'Haryana battered,' exhorting "the good, law-abiding citizens of Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh to pitch in and help the administration restore peace and calm in the region." Not a word about 30 dead people. Other newspapers did no differently.

So the 30 dead were all goons. Tried, convicted, sentenced, executed. Citizenry saved. 
 
Just a minor interjection: they were citizens, too. And we are yet to see proof that they were vandalising property, toppling OB vans, torching vehicles. Panchkula's citizens will do themselves and their children no favour if they do not demand proof that the 30 corpses are of goons. They must ask on whose hands lies the blood of these 30 citizens.


And yes, there is that question you have been itching to hurl at me with great force: what were these 30, and 300,000 others like them, doing in Panchkula? Why were they backing a rape accused? Have they taken leave of their senses?
 
Well, they checked out some aspects: Top politicians backed them, the Prime Minister tweeted praise for the rape-accused, politicians of all parties paid courtesy visits and sought his blessings, and the State gave him Z plus security.

On a different day, in a different write up, one will be only too happy to further delineate on this, but suffice to say this. Look at the social profile of dera premis. Notwithstanding the grand ideals of Sikhism, the fact is that the larger Sikh community has dealt very poorly with the lowered castes. Swarna Hindus had already marginalised them. Self proclaimed godmen saw a market and sold them what the hordes needed most: a sense of belonging, a sense of relevance, some political muscle, and education, health care, sanitation etc. You cannot ask the eternally deprived to be very choosy as to who their middleman will be. 
 
At times, it may turn out to be a rapist. As it did, this time. Still the argument did not work. You know why? Because "the good, law-abiding citizens" did not turn out in huge numbers against looters, plunderers, murderers and rapists of 1984, of 2002, of Muzaffarnagar and the many other massacres. Indian politics accepts some rapists, and not some others. The 30 dead have found out this, but they are not around to tell you their tale.
 
(*SP Singh is a senior journalist who lives a couple of kilometres away from what was ground zero for the good, law-abiding citizens of Panchkula. This article is being published courtesy newslaundry.com where it was published under the title "Of the 30 dead, and morning walks in Panchkula.”)
 

____________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:

LET'S KILL PAASH: Dr Sumail Singh Sidhu unravels the layers of the latest row about the revolutionary poet’s work and asks why is Paash being summoned from the ashes to answer our allegations?

THE BLOODY VILLAIN OF PARTITION: As Radcliffe drew a line between India and Pakistan, resulting in 600,000 lives lost and 14 million displaced, we revisit the key question: Were the massacres avoidable, preventable?

A DOKLAM IN EVERY FIELD: Farmers not only produce food. They produce peace. And agitated farmers are no guarantee of a lasting peace. Not every danger lurks at Doklam.
TO SUKHBIR SINGH BADAL, SINCE NO ONE ELSE WILL SAY IT: Speaking truth to power, and asking some tough questions to a party that refuses to behave like one. Does it even register the sense of a loss?

DECONSTRUCTING NAVJOT SINGH SIDHU: This is a duel -- pistols drawn, hands on hip, 20 steps across, aim taken, fingers on trigger. Right now, it looks like Amarinder has forgotten his gun home. Sidhu is itching to shoot. 

SURGICAL STRIKE YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT: Indian jawans killed everyone at this forward post of Pakistan and brought back seven bodies besides a trophy signed by Musharraf.

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: The English writing on Punjab has constructed an urbane Punjabi universe. Punjab is more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from the promise of modernity.

-------------

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT




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DISARM AND DISBAND DERA CHIEF'S MILITIA
War against the State?
27.08.17 - SANEHEAD
War against the State?



WHY DO WE not understand, that the incidents of August 25 in Panchkula and other parts of Haryana, Punjab and Delhi constitute pre planned war against the State of India as by Law established, including its entire judicial system and peaceful citizens by an outlaw called Gurmeet Ram Rahim and his trained army of followers?

They defied the courts of law, the prohibitory orders of the state, disrupted normal life, attacked innocent citizens, unlawfully entered people's homes, burnt government offices, public transport, media vans, railway trains and offered armed resistance to the Army as well as other armed forces of the State and assaulted officers of the Law. They rioted unashamedly and uncontrollably without any regard to the law of the land and waged civil war against their fellow citizens.

They did this in four states and two union territories.

The Army had to be called in to control them.

This was an armed insurrection against the State of India and its law abiding citizens, courts and armed forces by a group of trained and organised outlaws bound together by a dangerous semi-religious, semi-political ideology at the pre planned instigation of their so-called Godman cult leader, a convicted criminal, designed to bring elected governments, armed forces created by law, and courts created under the constitution of India to their knees to further the criminal interests and feed the megalomania of their rogue leader who is running a parallel government of his own.

Why is the main Dera at Sirsa not being thoroughly searched?

Is time being given to Dera management to spirit away money, arms and objectionable substances, materials and papers?

Computers mobiles and pen drives as well soft discs kept there also should be seized.

Why is it that Captain Amarinder got all Deras in Punjab searched, and Naam Charcha ghars have been sealed, but not the main hub at Sirsa?

Army is marching all around it; Sirsa experienced arson and killing on August 25, yet the main Dera is not being touched.

This casts doubts on the intentions of the Govt of Haryana which seems to be in cahoots with the Dera Chief.

The DGP of Haryana has himself admitted to recovery of Pistols, Assault Rifles, even AK 47's from the Dera supporters, but even then the main dera has been left untouched.

The Private Militia and armed Commandos of the Dera Chief's private security force needs to be delicensed if the Home Department of Haryana has licensed it- otherwise it is in itself illegal- and should be disarmed and disbanded immediately.

Otherwise they will continue to hold security forces of the Government to ransom whenever they please.

Evidence of the criminal conspiracy or in fact war against the state or Union of India should be collected not destroyed.

The Dera Chief must be named the main accused and chief conspirator in the case and speedily tried.

If no government has the guts to lodge such a case, the Supreme Court of India should take suo moto cognisance of this matter.




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No Ordinary Criminal
The next steps in the Baba files
26.08.17 - SANEHEAD
The next steps in the Baba files



Gurmeet Ram Rahim Insaan is not being kept in prison like an ordinary criminal.

He was flown in a luxury chopper to a guest house in the premises of the Haryana Police Training College outside Rohtak town.

He is being allowed private attendants and food of his choice and all VVIP facilities.

His lawyers will be allowed to argue via videoconferencing on Monday from Rohtak itself.
 
Is this how a criminal convicted of rape should be treated?

He should be put in solitary confinement in Tihar jail at once.

His Dera in Sirsa has not been searched for arms and for disbanding of his private militia and tactical leaders who are masterminding financing equipping and guiding the Dera- premis' violence from these headquarters where he also has set up a media war room.

The entire Dera premises and all premis present there including employees should be strip searched and sent home and the premises searched sanitised and sealed till its contents are auctioned as per High Court orders, for compensating all who have suffered loss during the rioting by Dera Premis anywhere in India.
 
His key aides should be immediately arrested for orchestrating the arson destruction and deaths caused by brainwashed and criminally schooled Dera followers in Panchkula , Sirsa, Delhi , Malout and Mansa Local perpetrators of such crimes should also be booked and prosecuted.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim himself should be named the key instigator and conspirator who planned and gave orders and provided equipment for the rioting including murders loot and arson and tried for the same and punished for it too.




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A Salute To The Lower Judiciary Of India
The Judge, The Complainants And The Judgement
25.08.17 - SANEHEAD
The Judge, The Complainants And The Judgement



A Salute to the Lower Judiciary of India.

A Salute to the Brave Judge Jagdeep Singh of the CBI Court Panchkula who delivered the landmark judgement against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan today in the midst of superhuman efforts by several governments and rampant hordes of misguided people to pressurise him to refrain from doing so.

This was no mean task.

For an individual judge to deliver a fair and impartial judgement when whole governments - of the Centre, two states, and a Union Territory had succumbed to popular pressure is nothing short of heroic.

We do not know what safety will be available to this judge and his family and for how long.

He still has to pass sentence on the quantum of punishment on Monday the 28th.

He also has to pass judgement in the case of murder of journalist Ram Chandra Chattrapati of Poora Sach Newspaper of Sirsa in which Gurmeet Ram Rahim is accused as the main conspirator.

The case is ripe for judgement.

Such individuals restore our faith in truth, justice and the law.

A Daniel come to Judgement indeed.

The woman who filed the complaint and stood by it for 15 years against superhuman pressure and the 2nd woman who also stood by her testimony and Anshul Chattrapati son of slain Journalist RC Chattrapati who continues to fight for justice against this Colossus or Godzilla of a Godman deserve the highest awards for bravery that we have in this country.

Fighting Ram Rahim, they say, is like fighting a mountain.

We can well believe them.

Especially when we see the armed forces deployed in Panchkula crumble like ninepins, running disgracefully after being pelted with stones by Ram Rahim's rabid followers, despite being armed to the teeth- a demeaning sight- and allowing public and private property, buildings and vehicles to be set on fire and innocent bystanders and mediapersons to be violently attacked by the marauding hordes under the very nose of the highest administrators of the land, and in the face of strictures by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, located nearby.

The citizens and governments of Punjab, Haryana and the UT of Chandigarh are being held to ransom by the brainwashed hordes of Ram Rahim's followers all over the place. Even the National Capital, Delhi, has been placed on high alert. Normal life in these areas has been paralysed for three days already.

Railway stations at Malout and Mansa in Bhatinda have been set on fire. Sirsa is experiencing arson and violence. Mohali next to Chandigarh on the Punjab side is tense. Seventeen people are dead, hundreds injured.

The army had to whisk away Ram Rahim to Rohtak Jail in the midst of this turmoil rather than he being escorted peacefully by the Haryana Police to Ambala Jail as would have been the case under normal circumstances.

But there is a sense of peace in the heart of the ordinary citizen despite this chaos, that would have been ruined forever if Ram Rahim had got a favourable judgement.

Judge Jagdeep Singh - A Daniel come to judgement indeed !

"Let Justice Prevail, though the heavens fall"
 
No truer word was ever said.




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Comment by: Alok

An heroic act. Three salutes to the Brave Judge who was absolutely suceesful in keeping the faith of a common in Indian Judiciary System. ALSO MY SALUTES TO BOTH HEROIC LADIES WHO FOUGHT THE CASE FOR GOOD 15 YEARS TO BRING IT TO A LOGICOL CONCLUSION AND THE ADVOCATES WHO FOUGHT THE CASE FOR THEM AND OTHER PEOPLE WHO STOOD WITH THEM THROUGHOUT THIS PERIOD.

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