Tight security in Rohtak ahead of Dera chief sentencing; curfew in Sirsa
Chandigarh: Security forces were on high alert again on Sunday in Haryana and Punjab as both states braced for the announcement of quantum of punishment on Monday to Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh who has been convicted of rape by a CBI special court.
The sentencing will be done in a court being specially set up inside the District Jail premises in Sunaria near Rohtak, 70 km from Delhi, where Ram Rahim was brought and lodged after his conviction.
Special Central Bureau of Investigation judge Jagdeep Singh, who had Friday held the Dera chief guilty of raping and sexually exploiting two female disciples in 2002, will be flown to Rohtak on Monday for announcing the quantum of punishment.
Curfew was reimposed in Haryana’s Sirsa town, where the sect’s headquarters are located, on Sunday and security forces braced themselves for any eventuality in and around Rohtak town in view of sentencing of the sect chief, who has lakhs of followers mainly in Punjab and Haryana.
The areas affected by violence in both states remained peaceful on Sunday even though security forces remained on high alert in both states, officials said.
In Sirsa, 260 km from here, where curfew was relaxed on Sunday morning for three hours, saw more Dera followers heading for the sprawling sect headquarters on the outskirts of the town as tension still prevailed.
The army and para-military forces are stationed outside the complex and have appealed repeatedly to the sect followers to vacate the premises. However, local authorities said that thousands of followers were still inside the complex, which is like a mini-city with a huge stadium, educational institutions, factories, markets and hospitals inside.
A media team from a national news channel was attacked in Sirsa by Dera followers, who chased and assaulted them in presence of the Haryana Police.
Dera followers had attacked the media in Panchkula on Friday after the rape case verdict against the sect chief and outdoor broadcasting vehicles were set on fire by the mobs.
Haryana Director General of Police B.S. Sandhu meanwhile said that no incident was reported from anywhere in the state in the past 24 hours.
“Our top priority is to ensure security for the sentencing in Sunaria (Rohtak) tomorrow (Monday). We are fully prepared with police personnel, para-military forces and Army on stand-by,” he said.
“We have searched and sanitised all premises of the sect at various places,” he said, adding 826 arrests have been made so far in connection with the violence.
Authorities are apprehending that the situation could take a violent turn following the sentencing of the disgraced godman on Monday.
With tension building up in some parts of Haryana and Punjab in wake of the sentencing, both states suspended mobile Internet services till August 29 (Tuesday). In Haryana, all schools and other educational institutions have been ordered to remain closed on Monday.
Prohibitory orders, barring the assembly of five or more persons and carrying of firearms and other weapons, have been imposed in Fatehabad, Kaithal and Ambala districts.
The conviction verdict led to violence leaving 36 people dead. Of these, 30 died in Panchkula, where the court was located, while six died in Sirsa town. Over 250 people were injured.
However, curfew was withdrawn on Saturday in Panchkula, adjoining Chandigarh, which saw the maximum violence on Friday.
Meanwhile, trains affected due to law and order situation have been resumed after receiving security clearance from authorities, the Railways said on Sunday.
“All the trains on Delhi-Jammu, Delhi-Amritsar, Delhi-Chandigarh, Moradabad-Saharanpur-Ambala sections have been resumed with immediate effect,” said Northern Railway spokesman Neeraj Sharma.
However, security clearance for Delhi-Rohtak-Bathinda section is still awaited and 25 trains are yet to be resumed, he said.