The wave of violence unleashed after the arrest of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh last week once again revealed the weak foundations of modern constitutional democracy in India. The ability of a cult to bring two states, Haryana and Punjab, to a standstill after a court verdict went against its leader is an example of contempt for the rule of law in Indian society.

The Haryana government clearly mishandled the situation. Political parties of all hues should share the blame for legitimizing the cult leader. Only those with a lack of regard for the lessons of history will underestimate the dangers of using local preachers to further their immediate interests.

The eventual use of force to deal with the violence—including the use of pellet guns—was a valid response by the state machinery. All functioning modern states rest on the assumption that the government has the sole monopoly over violence. What is true in Kashmir is also true in Haryana. There is need for a national discussion on why rich states such as Punjab and Haryana are falling prey to everything from drugs to religious cults.

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