Sirsa: They came in trains and buses from Rajasthan, Punjab, even Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. Now, 25,000 to 30,000 followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh are camped inside headquarters of the Dera Sacha Sauda, telling the state they have no way to go home.
As Haryana steels itself for the quantum of sentence for the Dera chief, convicted for rape on August 25, 200 buses of the state run Haryana Roadways sit ready at the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters in Sirsa.
The state buses were brought in at 8:45 PM on Sunday to move the followers out from there in the run up to the sentence.
Many of them have told the local administration they could not leave as they did not know how to, with 74 trains cancelled and hundreds of buses off the roads.
The 1000-acre campus, currently a fortress, has about 25,000 to 30,000 Dera followers, a senior official confirmed to CNN-News18.
Though this is a drop from the initial 1.5 lakh people gathered in Sirsa, the state buses have only managed to evacuate about 8000 people.
In theory, the strategy is sound. Haryana Roadways will head straight to the states from where the followers came. They will not stop anywhere on the way, preventing people from congregating in other spots.
However, on Monday morning, 50 buses went inside the campus and came out empty. The driver of one of the buses said, though they waited for people to board, no one wanted to come. It seems that those who wanted to leave have left, the others are here to stay.
Dera officials are trying to stem fears of a repeat of the violence that swept through Panchkula on Friday, where the CBI court announced the verdict. One official told CNN-News18 that on Friday, people “were out of control” but now everything was fine. This was the first admission from the Dera that their followers were responsible for the violence, a deviation from the outside element line they had been espousing so far.
The official, however, refused to comment on whether getting people to leave was a strategy to move them closer to Rohtak, where Singh is housed in the Sonaria district jail.
For now, only security forces and media persons with passes are allowed in and out of the campus. Perhaps having learnt its lessons from Panchkula, the state has barred not only internet services but also SMS services.