Himachal – Storm brewing in a tea cup

The handling of the Gudiya rape and murder case by the Himachal government and particularly the Chief Minister who heads the home department left a lot to be desired leading to widespread demonstrations and protests across the State.

The attempt to shield the real killers by the police drew the ire of the public which was vented through large scale protests and even torching of a police station. While the opposition was quick to demand the resignation of the CM and also the imposition of President’s rule in the State, the State Congress Committee sided with the government and backed the CM. But as things began to snowball and the public discontent was unabated, the State Congress committee headed by Virbhadra’s arch rival within the party Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu seemed to distance itself from the governments action or the lack of it.

Sensing an opportunity Virbhadra’s detractors within the party, buoyed by the recent outbursts by Vijay Singh Mankotia against the Chief Minister wherein he had called Virbhadra Singh ‘a rotten apple’, mustered the courage to lodge a complaint to the Congress High Command against the incumbent Chief Minister. Six ministers along with Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu urged the high command to remove Virbhadra Singh for his inept handling of the rape and murder mystery.

However it failed to cut any ice with the party bigwigs as Virbhadra turned the tables on his detractors  yet again and blamed them for sullying the party’s image by raising issues outside the party forum. Virbhadra Singh also castigated Sukhu, the State president and blaming him for the organisational mess in the State demanded his removal from the state hierarchy. With the Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi backing the incumbent CM to lead the party at the hustings, the decks are clear for Singh not only to lead the party in the forthcoming elections but also have his say in the State party affairs.

His detractors have been left licking their wounds again and could face his wrath in the ensuing elections. It may be remembered that 5 years back when Singh was battling with the then state party president Kaul Singh to lead the party in the assembly elections, he along with his supporters laid siege to the high command and even threatened to launch a new party if he was not made party president and allowed to lead the party at the hustings.

The Congress High Command and the then Congress Government at the Centre had to relent and handed over the command of the State unit to Virbhadra. It is not surprising therefore that now when the Congress has been decimated at the Centre, they will not annoy their regional Satrap who leads one of their last 2 remaining bastions apart from Karnataka.

However it remains to be seen if Virbhadra will be able to rally the rank and file of his party behind him after the flak and backlash that his government has borne after the inept and inefficient handling of the Gudiya rape and murder case which has since been taken over by the CBI with the registering of 2 FIRs.

Gorkha laborers unfairly accused?

The wife of Gorkha labourer Suraj, who was killed allegedly by another accused Raju in police custody, has come out with a startling revelation that 2 men whom she can identify took her husband Suraj from their shack with some allurement and assurance that he will come back after a few months and then both of them can go back to Nepal. She said that now since her husband had been killed she had nothing to lose and that she will identity the two men who had taken her husband.

The arrest of 2 Gorkha labourers by the police at the outset had drawn flak from the public and the media as it was seen as an attempt to shield the real culprits who were rich and influential. The role of the former SP D.W. Negi has come under the scanner for the way he conducted the whole enquiry leading to widespread protests and public fury across the state.

These new revelations have busted the police theory and tainted it’s reputation as top police officials had tried to lend credence to their investigation and arrests at a high level press conference. It is alleged that poor Gorkha labourers were made scapegoats and subjected to torture by the police in a sham investigation.

It is pertinent to note that Gorkha labourers are employed by orchardis in large numbers and have been carrying out their physical labour for the past many decades without any untoward incident. They live in the orchards with their families and are big contributors to the economy of the state by way of apple production. For the moment though, their confidence in the State administration and police has taken a battering.

There are reports that peeved and upset by the murder of Suraj in police custody and the way he was framed in the whole case and also the revelations of his wife, the Gorkha community could go back to Nepal in large numbers. If this happens, and that also in the middle of the apple season, it could spell disaster for the economy of the State as the Gorkhas are the main workforce of this labour intensive industry.


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