(a) Anarchy in Panchkula

Nothing shows up the ineptness of the state more than unpreparedness in the face of predictable events. In allowing tens of thousands of followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect to gather for a show of strength when their leader, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was awaiting a judicial verdict in a rape case, the Haryana government abdicated its responsibility of maintaining law and order, and protecting life and property. Prohibitory orders were not enforced, with the government evidently viewing the looming protests as pressure relief valves instead of as trigger points for violence. In the absence of preventive detention where appropriate, and of restriction on movement and assembly in public spaces, matters spiralled out of control once the court pronounced the cult leader guilty of rape. True, mob violence is difficult to control without resort to extreme force, but in this case the government seemed to rely entirely on the good sense of the sect’s followers. It failed to foresee violence on such a large scale, and no viable security plan was in place until after several hours of lawlessness. Despite intelligence inputs about the Dera followers storing fuel, and knives and stones, the government machinery was woefully slow to react. Neighbouring Punjab and Delhi also witnessed violence, but the preparedness of the law enforcers were of a higher order in both those areas. Punjab saw better coordination between the Army and the police, with action being taken at least ten days in advance. Of course, the supporters had gathered in greater numbers in Panchkula and Sirsa, the headquarters of the sect, in Haryana; even so, nothing remotely credible can explain the inadequateness of Haryana’s response to Friday’s mayhem. Religious sects such as the Dera Sacha Sauda that command a huge following are often handled with kid gloves by governments as they can deliver votes in blocks. Senior BJP leaders, including ministers, have often been seen seeking the blessings of the Dera leader. This is what must have prompted the Punjab and Haryana High Court to come down hard on the Manohar Lal Khattar government for its “political surrender” to the Dera vote bank. Although the remarks are political in nature, and quite unusual coming from a court, they reflect the growing perception that politicians are often in nexus with religious leaders and cult figures. Three years ago, in Hisar, another godman, self-styled “jagat guru” Sant Rampal, defied the police for several days, evading arrest in a contempt case. In that instance, his followers countered the police with Molotov cocktails and acid pouches. Clearly, godmen and cult leaders believe they are above the law. It is for the government and law enforcement agencies to disabuse them of that notion, especially when, as in the case of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, they face charges of rape and murder.

(b) That old spark

At a time when the Doklam stand-off had focussed attention on Himalayan geopolitics, it was impossible to miss the significance of the visit of Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to India. This was his first foreign visit as Prime Minister, and it conformed Kathmandu’s abiding interest in strong ties with India. The recovery of bilateral warmth has taken some doing on both sides. Mr. Deuba is Nepal’s 10th Prime Minister in a decade, and its fourth since its Constitution was promulgated in 2015. India had mounted strong opposition to the Constitution with demands that it be made more inclusive, especially vis-à-vis the Madhesis in the Terai area, sending ties with Kathmandu’s ruling establishment on a downward spiral. Even as Nepal struggled to cope with rehabilitation work after the massive earthquake of 2015, many in Kathmandu held India responsible for the three-month-long “great blockade” of goods and fuel supplies that followed sustained protests by Madhesi groups. To that end, Mr. Deuba’s visit was another opportunity, as were the visits of his predecessors K.P. Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, to repair the India Nepal relationship. The joint statement at the end of the Delhi leg of his visit refers to the “deep, comprehensive and multi-faceted” ties between the neighbours as it listed projects being developed in Nepal under lines of credit provided by India. These include $200 million for irrigation projects, $330 million for road development and $250 million for power infrastructure in Nepal. India made the obligatory appeal to Kathmandu “to take all sections of society on board” while implementing its Constitution, but the tenor was notably softer this time. No mention was made of a key amendment to the Constitution to accommodate Madhesi demands that had been defeated just last Monday. Yet, it would be a mistake to presume that ties can so easily return to their pre-2015 strength, as the ground has shifted in too many ways since then. To begin with, memories of the blockade still rankle in Nepal. And while South Block and Singha Durbar have been keen to move ahead with trade linkages and complete the integrated check-posts at Raxaul-Birgunj and Jogbani-Biratnagar, the land-locked country has actively sought to break its dependence on India for fuel and connectivity. Since 2015, Nepal and China have cooperated on infrastructure plans, including a big hydroelectric project and a rail link to Tibet. Nepal is also part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. India is struggling to leverage the historical closeness with Nepal, the open border the two share and the special status Nepalis working in India have enjoyed. The India-China stand-offin Doklam will add to the awkwardness in the trilateral relationship. Mr. Deuba’s visit will need a sustained follow-up.


1) Inept
Meaning: Having or showing no skill; clumsy.
Example: The referee’s inept handling of the match.
Synonyms: Incompetent, unskilful
Antonyms: Competent

2) Abdicated
Meaning: Fail to fulfil or undertake (a responsibility or duty).
Example: The government was accused of abdicating its responsibility.
Synonyms: Disown, Spurn
Antonyms: Accept, Take on

3) Detention
Meaning: The action of detaining someone or the state of being detained in official custody.
Example: The fifteen people arrested were still in police detention.
Synonyms: Custody, Imprisonment

4) Woefully
Meaning: In a manner expressing sorrow or misery.
Example: She sighed woefully and walked out.

5) Prompted
Meaning: (Of an event or fact) cause or bring about (an action or feeling).
Example: The violence prompted a wave of refugees to flee the country.
Synonyms: Induce, Occasion
Antonyms: Deter, Restrain

6) Nexus
Meaning: A connection or series of connections linking two or more things.
Example: The nexus between industry and political power.

7) Defied
Meaning: Openly resist or refuse to obey.
Example: A woman who defies convention.
Synonyms: Disobey, Ignore
Antonyms: Obey, Surrender

8) Evading
Meaning: Escape or avoid (someone or something), especially by guile or trickery.
Example: Friends helped him to evade capture for a time.
Synonyms: Elude, Avoid
Antonyms: Confront, Run into

9) Pouches
Meaning: Succeed in securing.
Example: He pouched his fifth first prize by beating Higginson in the final.

10) Abiding
Meaning: (Of a feeling or memory) lasting a long time; enduring.
Example: He had an abiding respect for her.
Synonyms: Enduring, Lasting, Fixed
Antonyms: Short-lived, Ephemeral

11) Promulgated
Meaning: Promote or make widely known (an idea or cause).
Example: These objectives have to be promulgated within the organization.
Synonyms: Publicize, Spread

12) Rankle
Meaning: (Of a comment or fact) cause continuing annoyance or resentment.
Example: The casual manner of his dismissal still rankles.
Synonyms: Annoy, Upset

13) Land-locked
Meaning: (Of a country or region) almost or entirely surrounded by land.
Example: I was raised in landlocked Winnipeg.

Other Hindu Editorials:

Hindu Editorial 26 August

Hindu Editorial 24 August

Hindu Editorial 23 August