Panchkula: Gauri Parasher Joshi, a woman civil servant, made up for the cowardice of the otherwise macho Haryana police.
On August 25, when unruly mob of Dera followers advanced with sticks and stones toward the Panchkula Deputy Commissioner her police guards fled the spot.
The local custodians of town were the first to show their back after a trial court convicted Sirsa Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim for rape. Police absence emboldened the Dera followers who indulged in a free show. This left 2009 batch IAS officer and woman bureaucrat to fend for herself.
Joshi tried to calm down the agitators, but violence escalated and the mother of an 11-month-old suffered injuries and even had her clothes torn.
Left alone with a single staff, she went to her office and issued an order to hand over the situation to the Army, which helped avoid further deterioration of the situation.
“Had the Army not come in, the residential area would have scene unprecedented devastation. We have been serving the local police with tea and biscuits for last few days, but the moment the Dera followers went on rampage the local police was the first to run,” Satinder Nangia, a Panchkula resident, told The Economic Times.
Joshi reached home at 3 am but not before going around every nook and corner of the city and seeing for herself that the situation had been brought under control after dispersing the rioters.
The 36-year-old commissioner had earlier served in the Naxal-affected district of Kalahandi in Odisha. The experience helped the 2009-batch IAS officer from Odisha cadre to face the mobs. She is currently on deputation to Haryana. She saved not only her life but also the situation from totally slipping out of control.
“It’s time the patriarchal state, with abysmally low sex ratio, looked up to such woman and took a lesson or two,” says Betty Nangia, who saw two Dera followers being shot down by Army just few meters away from her place, as they tried to enter homes.
It could have been a repeat of the unprecedented Jat agitation violence that had rocked Haryana in February 2016, if Joshi had not pressed the Army into action.
The Panchkula violence and arson left at least 32 dead and more than 250 persons injured, besides damaging property worth millions of rupees.
The dera followers, who had swarmed Panchkula for the past couple of days, had turned violent on hearing the news of the conviction of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
In the chaotic situation, she returned to the field. “It was the concern for the city, which was on the boil, that remained uppermost in my mind,” said the bureaucrat.
The wounded collector continued to boost the morale of the district machinery. “When I reached home in the wee hours, the family was shocked to see my blood-soaked clothes,” shared the journalist-turned-bureaucrat, an English Literature postgraduate from Delhi’s St Stephen’s College.
“She, however, still refused to go to hospital, saying that the hospital resources were too stretched and did not want to dislocate their work for her relatively less serious injury,” recalled her husband Ajit Balaji Joshi, a 2003-batch IAS officer who is is the Deputy Commissioner in Chandigarh.