Maverick self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Friday convicted of rape by a court in Punchkula, triggering widespread violence and arson in Haryana where 30 people were killed and over 250 injured.
Here is who said what after judgment and subsequent violence:
President Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind condemned violence and damage to public property by followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda and asked all people to maintain peace.
“Violence and damage to public property after court verdict is highly condemnable; appeal to all citizens to maintain peace,” the president said in a tweet.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly condemned the “deeply distressing”.
Modi reviewed the situation with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and said officials have been asked to work round-the-clock to restore normalcy.
“The instances of violence today are deeply distressing. I strongly condemn the violence & urge everyone to maintain peace,” he tweeted on Friday.
“The law & order situation is being closely monitored. I reviewed the situation with the NSA & Home Secretary,” the prime minister said.
“Urged officials to work round-the-clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required,” he added.
Controversial BJP leader Sakshi Maharaj came to the defence of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, describing as a “simple person” the self-styled godman who was convicted of rape.
The MP from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh said the rape allegation against him had been made by “one person” while he had the following of crores of people.
He wondered whether crores of his followers could be wrong.
“Ram Rahim seedhe sadhe hai, toh unhe bula lo (Ram Rahim is a simple person, so summon him). This raises questions,” Sakshi Maharaj told reporters.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani
Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani condemned the attack on media during violence in Panchkula but at the same time advised news channels to refrain from “causing panic, distress and undue fear”.
“Attack on media, damage to property condemnable. Appeal to all to maintain peace,” she said in a tweet.
At the same time, she added, “Drawing attention of news channels to clause B of Fundamental Std of NBSA (News Broadcasting Standards Authority) refraining channels from causing panic, distress & undue fear.”
Media persons and assets were targeted in Panchkula when followers of Ram Rahim went on the rampage after he was convicted in a rape case.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar admitted that there were lapses but asserted appropriate action was being taken.
Facing a volley of questions from reporters on the violence that has left at least 30 people dead and scores injured, he said the “lapses have been identified and we are taking appropriate steps”.
“This should not have happened,” he said.
“Some people have lost lives and vehicles have been set on fire while government property too has been damaged. Some OB vans of the media have also been damaged by the mob,” Khattar said.
“All those who have taken law into their hands will be punished. We have identified some culprits including those who fired (from the mob at security forces), some of whom have been nabbed and action will be taken against them,” he said.
The government will assess the damage, he added.
Asked how thousands of Dera followers managed to reach Panchkula and was his government prepared for this, Khattar said, “We were prepared to deal with the situation. Since it was a very big mob...”
Khattar ducked a question on how thousands of Dera followers managed to reach Panchkula despite Section 144 being imposed much earlier.
When repeatedly asked how the followers managed to reach in such big numbers and whether it was a failure of his government, he replied, “When such issue comes where you are dealing with followers in such numbers... We tried to stop them...”
Congress president Sonia Gandhi
The Congress called for the resignation of Haryana chief minister M L Khattar, with party president Sonia Gandhi expressing grave concern over the violence in the state.
The Congress president appealed for peace, while vice-president Rahul Gandhi stressed that violence and brutality had no place in society.
“@PMOIndia must put the interest and safety of Indians before his party’s interests. @mlkhattar must resign,” the party said on Twitter.
Rahul Gandhi, who left for Norway earlier today, condemned the “rampage and lawlessness” in Haryana and appealed for the restoration of peace.
“Violence and brutality have no place in our society. Condemn the rampage and lawlessness in Haryana and appeal to restore peace and tranquillity,” he said on Twitter.
Ex-CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda
Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda also appealed for peace but said the government should have been prepared.
“The priority now is to restore law and order, peace and harmony. I appeal to the people of Haryana to maintain calm and ensure there is no loss of life or damage to property,” he told reporters after violence broke out in Panchkula and other parts of the state in the wake of the conviction in the 2002 rape case.
Hooda said it was not the time for a blame-game but said the government should have been prepared and steps taken in advance to ensure law and order.
He said Haryana had already suffered because of the “laxity" and "weakness" of the government during earlier agitations.