Gurmeet Ram Rahim Rape Case Verdict: Dera Followers Told to Leave Panchkula as Tensions Soar, Army on Standby
Fearing trouble, especially if the verdict goes against Ram Rahim, thousands of jawans have been deployed in sensitive areas across the two states. Mobile internet services have also been suspended for 72 hours and several trains have been cancelled.
Thousands of Dera supporters, including women and elderly, are camping in parks and open spaces ahead of the court verdict. (Photo: News18)
Chandigarh: The Haryana Police appealed to followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to leave Panchkula as tensions soared in the city a day ahead of the rape case verdict by a CBI court in the city. The Army has been kept on standby in case any clashes erupt.
Haryana DGP BS Sandhu said that a massive clean-up operation to flush out the supporters will be conducted overnight as they refused to budge by the 10pm deadline set by the authorities. He said that police have arranged buses to transport the supporters and a crackdown would begin soon.
Close to 5,000 supporters that had dug in near the CBI court where Friday’s hearing will take place have been removed and an area of 1-km radius around the court premises has been sanitised, the Haryana top cop said.
The Dera Sacha Sauda followers, estimated to be over 1.5 lakh, are camped in parks and on the roads in Panchkula to show solidarity with their icon. However, their whopping numbers has created a security nightmare and both Punjab and Haryana are in a virtual lockdown mode.
Dera Sacha Sauda has refused to appeal to the sect’s followers to leave the city and supporters also said they have not been given any instructions.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar spoke to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and apprised them of the emerging law and order situation. The inability of the state government to stop the build-up earned it a rap from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which made it clear it would not allow a repeat of violence witnessed during last year's Jat agitation when several people were killed.
Fearing trouble, especially if the verdict goes against Ram Rahim, thousands of jawans, including 15,000 paramilitary troops, have been deployed in sensitive areas across the two states. A curfew was imposed in the highly sensitive Sirsa town, which houses the sect’s headquarters, and three neighbouring villages.
Mobile internet services have also been suspended for 72 hours in both the states and their joint capital Chandigarh. Authorities are also keeping a close watch on social media posts, officials said. The authorities also restricted movement of trains and buses towards Panchkula.
In Punjab, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said the state has taken all preventive measures. “I have told the DGP to take appropriate action after reviewing the situation. I have authorized the police to impose a curfew if there is any trouble. If needed, we will take help from the Army,” he said.
However, in what appeared to be some relief for a stretched administrative machinery, Ram Rahim Singh said on Thursday that he would appear in person before the special CBI court on Friday and appealed to his followers to maintain peace.
“I have always respected the law. Even though I have a backache, still abiding by law, I will go to court (tomorrow). I have full faith in God. Everyone should maintain peace,” he tweeted.
The sexual exploitation case was registered against the Dera chief in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the High Court after anonymous letters were circulated about the alleged sexual exploitation of two 'sadhvis' (female followers) by Ram Rahim Singh. The Dera chief, however, has denied these charges.
“The central government has assured all possible help to the two state governments in dealing with any situation as a large number of followers of the Dera chief have started arriving in Panchkula, Chandigarh and nearby areas,” said another home ministry official. We are in constant touch with the governments of Punjab and Haryana and have given them adequate forces, he added.
Flag marches were carried out by security forces in Panchkula, Sirsa, Hissar and other places while many hospitals were also put on alert as a precautionary measure, the official said.
The police were keeping a close watch on social media, particularly WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter, and have asked people not to spread rumours, he said. Bus services on many routes were also suspended as a precautionary measure.
A joint control room of Haryana and Punjab would be set up in sector-9, Chandigarh where a police officer each from both the states would be deployed for better coordination, said Haryana additional chief secretary Ram Niwas. He said that as per earlier orders, Section 144 was imposed in all districts.
He added that Dera followers were being flushed out from sensitive areas. Niwas said that ten senior IPS officers had been deployed and two Director General level officers of the police department were also focusing to ensure peace and maintaining law and order in the state.
Meanwhile, the Haryana government declared the Chaudhary Tau Devi Lal stadium complex, Sector-3, Panchkula and Dalbir Singh Indoor stadium, Sirsa as 'special jails'.
Earlier, the Chandigarh home department had declared the cricket stadium in Sector 16, which is associated with early training days of legendary Kapil Dev, as a 'temporary jail on August 25', the day of the verdict. The Punjab government today declared that government offices situated at Chandigarh would be closed on August 25.
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