Ram Rahim case sentencing today: Rohtak turned into a fortress, schools and colleges to remain shut
Haryana and Punjab ordered schools and colleges shut, suspended mobile services, beefed up security and threw a five-tier cordon around a Rohtak jail, where on Monday a judge will hand out punishment to self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for raping two disciples.
The special CBI court will at 2.30pm begin hearing arguments on quantum of punishment, which could range from seven years to life imprisonment, in the district jail at Sunaria where the flamboyant Dera Sacha Sauda chief is lodged.
Rohtak deputy commissioner Atul Kumar said miscreants who try to spread violence will be shot dead. “We requested for 18 columns of army. It is on stand-by and will arrive within one hour of our request,” he said.
The burly sect leader, who is partial to body-hugging T-shirts, leather and rhinestones, was on Friday found guilty of raping two women in a 15-year-old case.
Within minutes of the guilty verdict, his followers ran riot and clashed with security forces, leaving 38 people dead and 250 injured.
While 32 people were killed in Panchkula, where the case was heard and bore the brunt of violence, and six were killed in Sirsa, where the dera is based.
The scale of violence left everyone stunned, with the Haryana government and chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar coming in for severe criticism for going soft on the dera.
“Violence in the name of faith will not be tolerated and everyone will have to bow before the law,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose BJP is in power in Haryana, said in his monthly radio address on Sunday.
CBI special judge Jagdeep Singh, who found the 50-year-old sect leader guilty, will be flown to Rohtak on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court. Rohtak is one of the few districts in Haryana, where the dera doesn’t have much influence.
But security agencies are not taking chances and have turned Rohtak into a fortress, with a multi-layer security ring thrown around the jail.
More than 10 companies of central forces such as the BSF, CISF and ITBP reached the district on Saturday night, taking the total to 23, a police official said. The army was on standby.
The administration has advised people not to travel to Rohtak unless urgent. All entry and exit points were being monitored.
“Dus kilometre radius me parinda bhi par nahi mar sakta (Not even a bird can enter within 10km of the prison),” Haryana additional chief secretary (home) Ram Niwas said.
Sirsa continues to be under a lockdown and a worry for the authorities. Curfew was relaxed on Sunday morning for three hours as more dera followers headed for the sprawling sect headquarters on the outskirts of the town.
The army and para-military forces stationed outside the complex repeatedly requested the sect followers to vacate the premises but thousands of followers were still inside the complex.
A media crew was allegedly assaulted near the dera as the army and central armed police forces patrolled the streets.
Around 100 dera followers were taken into preventive custody across Haryana while 10 naam charcha ghars, or prayer houses, in Rohtak were sealed.
Around 103 congregation centres were searched and sedition case registered against the sect head’s aides, including Aditya Insan and Dhiman Insan, for the violence in Panchkula.
While all schools and colleges in Haryana will remain closed on Monday, in neighbouring Punjab educational institutes in 13 districts in Malwa region will be shut.
Both the states have extended by two days the suspension of mobile internet, data and SMS services. Punjab also continues to be on a high alert, with curfew in many areas. The state’s Malwa belt has a sizable presence of dera followers and police fear trouble from them.
Around 18,000 police personnel and 85 companies of paramilitary forces had been deployed in the area.
(With agency inputs)
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