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Ram Rahim rape trial: Section 144 across Punjab, CM tells police to ‘use all options’ to keep peace

Punjab has also received an additional 10 companies of the Border Security Force (BSF), which now means 85 central paramilitary companies along with thousands of policemen on the ground will maintain a tight vigil.

punjab Updated: Aug 23, 2017 21:43 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Amarinder Singh,Punjab police,Dera sacha sauda
CM Capt Amarinder Singh also ordered withdrawal of 1,000 police personnel from VVIP security for deployment on field duty to strengthen the security blanket in the state, said an official spokesperson.(HT File Photo)

The Punjab government has imposed prohibitory order against assembly of people, under section 144, across the entire state with immediate effect and decided to shut all schools and colleges in Punjab on August 25, the day of the court verdict in a rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

A ban has been imposed on carrying of firearms, with orders to shut down private gun houses selling arms and ammunition to licence-holders, until the situation normalises, an official spokesperson said on Wednesday after a meeting convened by the chief minister in the evening to review the state’s security arrangements with the police top brass.

CM Capt Amarinder Singh also ordered withdrawal of 1,000 police personnel from VVIP security for deployment on field duty to strengthen the security blanket in the state, the spokesperson said. The meeting was attended, among others, by director general of police (DGP) Suresh Arora, DGP (intelligence) Dinkar Gupta and DGP (law and order) Hardeep Singh Dhillon.

“The CM is very strict on the issue and his orders are: ‘Don’t allow anybody to take law in his hands.’ His message is that the state has to maintain peace by using all options,” said an officer who did not want to be named.

Punjab has also received an additional 10 companies of the Border Security Force (BSF), which now means 85 central paramilitary companies along with thousands of policemen on the ground will maintain a tight vigil, especially in the vulnerable areas of Moga, Bathinda, Sangrur, Barnala, Patiala and Ludhiana, where the dera, headquartered in Sirsa in neighbouring Haryana, has significant following.

Source said the Centre is ready to depute more companies to Punjab after the state home secretary apprised the Union Home secretary of the situation.

Shut internet if needed: govt

Sources in the top brass of Punjab Police told HT that the chief minister has given instructions to the police to maintain law and order at any cost and shut down the internet services in case need arises. “Keeping in view the past incidence of violence in Punjab and the recent violence in Jat agitation in Haryana, it was decided that the district administration should not shy away from imposing curfew, if at all the situation goes out of control in any particular part of the state,” an officer present in the meeting with the CM said.

State police chief Suresh Arora visited Sangrur, Muktsar, Ferozepur and Ludhiana districts on Wednesday to review the deployment of forces and also interacted with the central forces. “We are ready to face any situation as we cannot take any chance. Our entire force is on toes,” the DGP told HT.

Army on standby

DGP (law and order) HS Dhillon said the army has been requested to remain alert and on standby. This comes amid intelligence reports of followers of the dera stocking petrol and arms at its prayer centres, of which the CM took note.

Meanwhile, police seized five walkie-talkies from suspected dera followers. A statewide crackdown has been launched to identify various locations suspected to be housing dangerous weapons of any kind. Sources said police are also in touch with dera leaders active in the Malwa region, convincing them not to trigger any movement of people to Sirsa or Panchkula. But the congregation of thousands of dera followers at both places continued.

First Published: Aug 23, 2017 21:37 IST