Dera violence in Panchkula: Petrol cans in fire tender raise questions

Petrol, unknown chemical found from tender that was part of dera chief’s convoy

india Updated: Aug 28, 2017 12:29 IST
Vivek Gupta
Vivek Gupta
Hindustan Times, Panchkula
Ram Rahim,Ram Rahim rape verdict,Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
The fire tender that was part of the dera chief’s cavalcade parked at the MDC police station.(Sant Arora/Ht)

Panchkula Police have found two cans of petrol and some “unknown” chemical from a fire tender that was part of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s cavalcade, which accompanied him from Haryana’s Sirsa before Friday’s verdict in a rape case against him. (Ram Rahim sentencing Live coverage)

The 50-year-old Dera Sacha Sauda leader was found guilty of raping two of his disciples 15-year-old ago.

The cans were found after police impounded nearly 30 vehicles, most of them SUVs, from Mansa Devi Complex on Saturday night. In the crackdown following the violence on Friday, police have also seized several weapons, including an AK-47 rifle, from these vehicles and arrested their drivers.

The Dera followers torched a bank, hotel, and government offices in the city with petrol and kerosene-fuelled bottle bombs soon after clashes began on Friday afternoon. At least 38 people were killed and 250 injured in the violence following the verdict.

Police commissioner AS Chawla confirmed that the two petrol cans were found in the fire tender. The department has formed a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the matter and find the motive behind carrying the fuel.

Haryana director general of police BS Sandhu told reporters on Sunday that forensic teams have also been called in to identify the unknown chemical. “Although the substance does not seem inflammatory in nature but we are taking no chances,” he said.

Police have also arrested six men, most of whom were part of Dera Sacha Sauda chief’s private security force, after they were trying to enter Chandigarh following the Panchkula violence. They said the men were sent by a sect worker from Sirsa with ₹1,000 each and 30-litre can of petrol.

While the Dera chief was flown to Rohtak soon after his conviction on Friday, many vehicles of the 300-strong cavalcade Sirsa are still in the city.

Sources said police are also looking for other vehicles that could have been left behind after the violence.

The special CBI court will begin hearing arguments at 2.30pm on Monday on the quantum of punishment, which could range from seven years to life imprisonment, in the district jail at Sunaria where the flamboyant self-styled godman is lodged.

Panchkula gears up for sentencing

Soldiers of the Indian Army conducted a flag march several times in Panchkula on the eve of the announcement of sentence against the Dera chief in Rohtak.

Police commissioner Chawla said six columns of the army have been deployed in the sensitive parts of the city. Paramilitary forces and the state police are also on vigil.

“We have reviewed the security arrangements several times during the day and are taking no chances ahead of the judgment,” he said.

He also appealed to the people to stay alert and inform the police if they find anything suspicious.

Chawla said additional forces have been deployed in border areas and sensitive locations such as bus stands and there will be regular patrolling throughout the day. He said the decision about decommissioning the army will be taken after the Monday’s sentencing.

Government offices will remain open on Monday but the administration has declared a holiday in schools and colleges.

Panchkula Public School Association spokesperson Jivtesh Garg said the decision about opening schools on Tuesday will be taken on Monday evening, as security forces are staying in six private schools in the city.

“We may have to extend the holiday by a day if the security forces decide to stay,” he said.

First Published: Aug 28, 2017 10:14 IST