Ram Rahim rape trial: Punjab, Haryana on alert, Dera followers throng Panchkula

Prohibitory orders were imposed in both states ahead of the court verdict in a rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh with authorities not ruling out taking the army’s help to maintain law and order. In Haryana, August 24 and 25 were notified as gazetted holidays.

punjab Updated: Aug 24, 2017 00:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Dera sacha sauda,dera sacha sauda news,Ram rahim
Police interacting with the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda near Chandigarh railway station on Wednesday.(Keshav Singh/HT)

Haryana and Punjab are on maximum alert ahead of the court judgment in a sexual exploitation case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh on August 25.

As a precautionary measure, the government has ordered closure of schools and colleges in Panchkula district on August 24 and 25, deputy commissioner Gauri Parashar Joshi said on Wednesday.

Nearly 50,000 dera followers, intelligence sources say 100,000, are estimated to have already reached and many more are still arriving at the sect’s Sector-23 based Naam Charcha Ghar (congregation/prayer centre) in Panchkula to show their solidarity with the sect chief, who has been asked to appear in person in the special CBI court on Friday.

The sexual exploitation case was registered against the dera chief in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court after anonymous letters were circulated

about the alleged rape of two ‘sadhvis’ (female followers) by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. He has denied these charges. Singh also faces trial in another case involving the murder of a journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati.

Central Reserve Police Force, including the Rapid Action Force, will be deployed in Panchkula during the hearing on Friday.

In Chandigarh, 5,000 policemen are guarding the city, while an equal number have been deployed in Panchkula, while 2,000 are on duty in Mohali. Chandigarh police chief TS Luthra said the border to Chandigarh was sealed at 6 pm on Wednesday and only those with a valid reason are being allowed to enter the city.

Show of solidarity

The followers, who call themselves ‘premis’, said they were in Panchkula to express solidarity with their “pitaji” (father figure) and warned that the authorities would be responsible for any adverse order against him.

Asked if the dera chief will appear before the court in Panchkula on Friday, dera spokesperson Aditya Insan said, “We respect the law. Even our maharaj-ji, had asked the followers to keep calm last night during a naam-charcha (sermon).”

Taking exception to Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s reported comments over Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s appearance in court, the sect’s spokesperson requested the CM not to make such a statement.

“Without holding any discussion with us, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar has unfortunately made a statement that Guru ji (Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh) will come there (appear in court). It has led to a situation of confusion,” said Aditya Insan.

The spokesperson said such a statement would create confusion among the people.

Khattar had reportedly said that the Dera chief would appear before the special CBI court.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, meanwhile, took to Twitter to give a message of “selfless service and meditation” to his followers.

“Selfless service, meditation and firm belief are the ornaments in spirituality,” he said in a tweet and also shared a link to a Facebook video of one of his discourses.

Weapons banned

Amid reports that the Dera followers could stock petrol, ‘lathis’ and other weapons at ‘Naam Charcha Ghars’, Punjab Police has asked officials to be alert against any such action by the followers if the verdict goes against the Dera chief.

Haryana additional chief secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said that carrying sticks or weapons has been prohibited at the Naam Charcha Ghar of dera followers in the state.

Haryana DGP BS Sandhu has toured sensitive districts in the state, including Sirsa and Fatehabad, while his Punjab counterpart Suresh Arora took a whirwind tour of Bathinda, Mansa, Moga, Patiala, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib and Mohali districts to check preparedness.

Heavy police has been deployed in Bathinda, which shares its border with Sirsa, where the dera headquarters is located in Haryana.

Haryana Roadways buses will be off the roads on August 25 but private buses will not ply for three days. All government and private schools in Sirsa to stay closed on day of the verdict.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Aug 23, 2017 19:19 IST