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Dera chief Ram Rahim sentence today; Haryana, Punjab on toes

After the violent attacks on mediapersons and their vehicles by dera supporters in Panchkula, the police have made special security arrangements in Rohtak for them.

punjab Updated: Aug 28, 2017 08:45 IST
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh/Rohtak
Ram Rahim,Ram Rahim rape verdict,Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
Police maintaining tight vigil near the Rohtak jail premises ahead of the hearing on quantum of sentence against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim on August 27. (Manoj Dhaka/HT)

Haryana and Punjab stepped up security a day ahead of a court hearing on the quantum of sentence against rape convict and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in Rohtak.

The special CBI court will pronounce the jail term during the proceedings to be held in the district jail at Sunaria where the flamboyant “godman” is lodged. CBI court judge Jagdeep Singh will be flown to Rohtak as per the order of the Punjab and Haryana high court and the sentence is expected to be handed out around 2.30 pm.

Ram Rahim was held guilty on Friday of raping two sadhvis (female followers), following which his supporters ran riot leading to the death of 38 people — 32 in Panchkula and six in Sirsa — and injuries to around 250.

Scalded by the magnitude of violence and stinging remarks against the Haryana government by the high court, the state agencies have turned Rohtak into a fortress. A multi-layer security cordon has been thrown around the district jail. A police official said 10 more companies of central armed police forces such as BSF, CISF and ITBP reached the district on Saturday night, taking the total to 23.

Rohtak deputy commissioner Atul Kumar said that 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 administration has advised the people not to travel to Rohtak unless there is urgent work.

Also, 100 dera followers have been taken into preventive custody. The police have sealed all 10 ‘naam charcha ghars’ (congregation centres) of the dera in Rohtak police range. In all, 103 such centres have been searched across the state. A case of sedition has been registered against the sect head’s close aides, including Aditya Insan and Dhiman Insan, after the violence in Panchkula two days ago.

After the violent attacks on mediapersons and their vehicles by dera supporters in Panchkula, the police have made special security arrangements here for them. However, no arrangement has been made for the media to get prompt information on what the verdict will be. All movement has been stopped at least three km from the jail.

Haryana additional secretary, home, Ram Niwas said “foolproof” arrangements were being taken to avoid a replay of Friday’s violence. “Dus kilometre radius me parinda bhi par nahi mar sakta (Not even a bird can enter the 10 km radius of the prison). I have been assured by the top police officials and the local administration,” he told a news channel. However, Sirsa, home to Dera’s headquarters, continues to be under lockdown and a worry for the state authorities. A media crew was allegedly assaulted near the dera. Army and central armed police forces also carried out flag march in the city.

All educational institutions, including government and private schools, colleges and other institutions, in Panchkula, Rohtak, Kaithal, Ambala, Bhiwani and Fatehabad districts will remain closed on Monday.

Both Punjab and Haryana, which suspended all mobile Internet, data and SMS services on August 24 for 72 hours, extended the suspension of services for two more days. The administration also decided to suspend broadband services in Sirsa.

Punjab also continues to be on a high alert with curfew imposed in many areas. The state authorities are going all-out to identify movable and immovable assets of the dera on the directions of the high court.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed and taking all precautions to ensure that things do not out of control,” DGP, law and order, HS Dhillon said. Malwa belt of Punjab has a sizable presence of Dera followers and the police apprehend trouble from them.

Dhillon said that 18,000 police personnel and 85 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed. As a precautionary measure, the state government has ordered closure of all educational institutions, including government and private schools and colleges, besides technical institutions, in the 13 sensitive Malwa belt districts.

However, in Union Territory Chandigarh, the joint capital of the two states, schools and colleges will function normally. Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is facing criticism for failing to check the violence, a virtual repeat of the shoddy security arrangements during the Jat community protests for quotas last year in which nearly 30 people died.

Tearing into the government’s defence for not reining in Dera followers following Ram Rahim’s conviction, the high court observed, “This was political surrender to lure vote banks.” It asked the state why it couldn’t stop 200,000 followers of the sect from gathering in Panchkula despite prohibitory orders

First Published: Aug 28, 2017 08:44 IST