Khattar to stay: BJP
Panchkula, rest of Haryana & Punjab peaceful but tense; Army on vigil outside Dera’s Sirsa HQ.
New Delhi/ Panchkula/ Sirsa: The BJP on Saturday ruled out the removal of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who is under attack for the violence by followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh following his conviction in a rape case. Defending the state government, BJP general secretary Anil Jain, the party in-charge for Haryana affairs, told reporters that death of people and damage to property were unfortunate but claimed that the government controlled the situation within three hours with "minimum possible damage". He said the people killed in the violence were the "unruly mob" which defied law and order.
Meanwhile, the Army said that it has no immediate plan of entering Dera Sacha Sauda sect headquarters in Sirsa and that it is focusing on maintaining law and order, reacting to reports that it had entered the premises. In Panchkula, security forces remained on high alert on Saturday as an uneasy calm prevailed in the district, which was the epicentre of Friday violence.
Jain said that the situation would have been worse had action been taken against the assembling crowd before he appeared in court on Friday. "There is no such consideration," he said when asked if the party was considering removal of Khattar, who had also faced criticism for his government's handling of the Jat agitation for reservations.
Meanwhile, the death toll in the violence climbed up to 36 on Saturday even as there was no report of fresh violence in Haryana. "Thirty six people have died, out of which six casualties are in Sirsa and remaining are in Panchkula," DGP B S Sandhu said this evening. Thirteen persons from among the 36 deceased have been identified, the police said.
No untoward incident was reported from neighbouring Punjab also as security forces conducted flag marches and kept a tight vigil in the sensitive areas. Curfew was also relaxed at some places where it had been imposed.
The Haryana government on Saturday suspended the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Panchkula, alleging that a "defective" order by him allowed the crowd build-up in the district. The Haryana goverment also terminated the services of the state's Deputy Advocate General, Gurdas Salwara, for allegedly "accompanying" Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Friday's after the sect head's conviction. "Six columns of the Army have been deployed in Panchkula and four in Sirsa." Haryana Chief Secretary Dhesi said.
On Saturday, Britain asked its citizens to avoid places of large gathering in Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh. Australia and Canada too sounded similar advisory alerts.