Followers of Dera Sacha Sauda leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh have started gathering in large numbers in Panchkula, ahead of the CBI court’s verdict in a rape case against him, scheduled for 25 August.
Over 40,000 followers of the controversial godman have gathered at Naam Charcha Ghar in Sector 23 of Panchkula.
The Chandigarh police have announced that the Chandigarh Cricket Stadium will be converted into a “temporary jail” on the date of the hearing, and will be used to detain unruly Dera followers.
All private and government schools in Panchkula will remain shut on 24-25 August ahead of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s rape case verdict.
The case pertains to 2002, when the CBI sexual exploitation case was registered against the head of the sect, which is based in Sirsa in Haryana, in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court after anonymous letters were circulated about the alleged exploitation of two ‘Sadhvis’ (female followers) by Gurmeet Ram Rahim. The Dera Chief has denied these charges.
Devotees Storing Weapons, Petrol, Diesel: Punjab Police Issues Alert
“It has come to the notice that Dera Sacha Sauda Sirsa premis have started storing petrol, diesel in drums at Naam Charcha Ghars in district Faridkot,” the office of Punjab DGP (Law and Order) said, in an alert issued to district police chiefs, IGs and DIGs across the state.
“They have stored sharp-edged weapons and stones on the roof of Naam Charcha Ghars.”
The police has been asked to make adequate security arrangements in order to thwart any potential incidents of violence.
Section 144 Imposed in Haryana
Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh governments have imposed prohibitory orders and banned the holding of flag marches ahead of the verdict.
Senior police and administrative officers of Haryana, Punjab and UT Chandigarh held meetings on 23 August to take stock of the security arrangements, officials said.
“Section 144 (which bars gathering of more than 4 persons at a place) has been imposed in all the districts of Haryana,” the state’s Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said during a briefing about the security arrangements.
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar also held parleys with top police and administrative brass.
The Haryana government has also requested the Centre to provide 115 companies of paramilitary forces, Niwas said.
Duty magistrates have been deployed at all locations, Niwas said, adding that additional duty magistrates were deployed in some districts.
Anticipating danger in case there is a conviction in the case, the Haryana State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (HSCPCR) chairperson Jyoti Bainda has written to BS Sandhu, DGP, asking him to take measures for the safety of the children living in protection homes located in Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, reported Tribune.
Security Beefed up in Punjab and Chandigarh
Punjab and Haryana have been granted 75 and 35 companies of central forces, respectively, to maintain security.
Police along with paramilitary forces like the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and SSB, held flag marches at vulnerable places including Moga, Bathinda, Sangrur, Barnala, Patiala, Ludhaina, Panchkula, Sirsa, Fatehabad, Ambala, Hisar, officials said.
This is not Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s first brush with the law. The head of the sect, based in Haryana’s Sirsa, previously courted controversy when he dressed up as the 10th Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, in 2007 – a move that angered the community.
(With inputs from PTI, Indian Express, Tribune)