Anticipating trouble during the visit of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, controversial head of Sirsa's Dera Sacha Sauda sect, to court here on Friday, the police force have converted the entire city into a cantonment.
Ram Rahim is to appearance before chief judicial magistrate Harjeet Singh in a case related to hurting the religious sentiments of Sikh community. In spite of all efforts by the Bathinda police to avoid his personal appearance in court, he is expected here a day before the voting in the Moga assembly byelection.
On the pretext of security, the police will seal the road leading from the Haryaya border (Dabwali) to Bathinda, but it will be only to give a safe passage to the controversial personality. The security forces have raised sand bunkers and barricades on roads and summoned backup from the neighboring districts. The option to call the army is open.
It is for the first time when the dera is not that aggressive to stall the court appearance of its head. “The dera head will appear in the court here on February 22. I have that information from the dera authorities,” SK Garg, lawyer of Ram Rahim, confirmed over telephone on Wednesday evening.
In a last-ditch effort to avert the situation, the public prosecutor has moved an application with the CJM, seeking a fresh date for the appearance of Ram Rahim in the interenst of maintaining law and order. District attorney Iqbaljit Singh Kingra declined to comment on the issue on the pretext that the matter was sub judice.
On April 2, 2012, the CJM had ordered the dera head to appear in his court, and on February 8, additional district and sessions judge DS Johal had dismissed the revision petition against these orders. In the revision petition, Ram Rahim had sought exemption from personal appearance in court and cancellation of the first-information filed in the Kotwali police station of Bathinda in which he is charged with hurting Sikh sentiments in May 2007 by appearing in an attire similar to that of Guru Gobind Singh in paintings.
He wore the dress during a religious congregation in the sect’s dera at Slabatpura village, about 60 kilometres from Bathinda. His picture, in which he is in the controversial attire, appeared in Punjabi newspapers and it led to violence between the dera followers and Sikh radicals. The dera head has not entered Punjab since.
On January 27, 2012, three day before the state elections, the Bathinda police had moved the CJM's court to seek the cancellation of the case. However, after a year-long judicial proceedings, now Ram Rahim is supposed to appear in the same court, a day before another crucial election.
The Dera followers in the region are holding meetings to organize a big show of strength outside the Bathinda court on the day of the appearance of Ram Rahim as they have been doing outside the central bureau of investigation (CBI) court in Ambala where the dera head is under trial on the charges of rape and murder.