How Rajasthan cops kept the peace for Asaram verdict, from court in jail to watch on devotees
Keeping in mind last year’s violence in Haryana following the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, Rajasthan Police began preparations for Asaram’s verdict ahead of time.india Updated: Apr 26, 2018 13:06 IST
Police in Jodhpur put in tough measures ahead of the verdict in the rape case against self-styled godman Asaram to ensure there was no repeat of the violence after the conviction of another controversial Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a sexual assault case last year.
Thousands of Singh’s followers clashed with police and went on a rampage, setting vehicles, buildings and railways stations on fire in August last year after a CBI court convicted him of raping two women 15 years ago.
More than 30 people were killed and hundreds injured in the violence and police firing triggered by Singh’s conviction.
A special court on Wednesday convicted Asaram Bapu, as he is known to his followers, of raping a teenager in August 2013 and sentenced him to life in prison until death, the maximum punishment prescribed by the law for the offence.
Asaram, 79, who runs 400 ashrams and has millions of followers in India and abroad, was convicted in a closed jailhouse court in Jodhpur where hundreds of policemen stood guard.
“The first thing we did when we learnt of the date of the verdict was that we moved a plea in the high court requesting that the judgment is pronounced in the jail premises. This was intended to avoid any inconvenience to common people and help us better maintain peace,” Jodhpur police commissioner Ashok Kumar Rathore said.
Rathore said the next step that his department took was to check the entry of Asaram’s supporters in the city as they have clashed with the police in the past.
He added bus and autorickshaw drivers were also alerted and asked to inform the police if they saw a group of supporters.
“We upped the checks at railway stations and bus stops and made checkpoints on all entries in the district. The supporters usually come in groups and wherever we came across any, we sent them back to where they had come from,” Rathore said.
“Our teams were also visiting hotels to see if any supporters were lodged there. On the day of the verdict, we flew drones in the city to see if people were congregating anywhere,” he added.
The commissioner said that some 15 supporters of Asaram were found in the city and they were sent back to their home. Two were found loitering outside the court premises on the day of the judgment and were packed away, he added.
Prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC ) banning the assembly of five or more persons were imposed in Jodhpur city from April 21 and will be in force until April 30.
The commissioner hinted that since everything was peaceful so far, the prohibitory orders might be lifted within a day.
The police also cleared Asaram’s ashram in Pal village of devotees and only five to six people, mostly the staff, remained there.
“This was more symbolic and a message to other devotees that they are not welcome,” said the commissioner.
Six companies each of the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary and Special Task Force were deployed in the city to handle any law and order situation that could. Police officials also took out a flag march in the city on Tuesday ahead of the judgment to restore the confidence of the people.
Mounted police also kept patrolling the streets of Jodhpur as part of the security measures.
Security forces in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat, which have a large number of followers of Asaram, also went on high alert, for fear of a backlash from supporters.