Ram Rahim rape verdict: Edgy Panchkula held hostage at home
Residents stock up on supplies, stay home, watch situation unfold on TV, social media.punjab Updated: Aug 24, 2017 19:07 IST
All roads led to Panchkula for the third day on Thursday. The steady stream of Dera Sacha Sauda followers marched into this sleepy town on the eve of the CBI special court hearing in Sector 1 that will give its verdict in the rape case against their leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
The influx of the nearly three lakh dera followers (according to intelligence inputs) has left the estimated two lakh residents of the town outnumbered and on the edge. Many residents wanted to know why the district administration has imposed prohibitory orders but not enforced it, while others were busy stocking up on ration to brace for any eventuality post Friday’s verdict.
“It was calm today but we don’t know how it will pan out tomorrow. The influx is an unnecessary nuisance and has brought our life to a standstill. I kept the gate locked for the whole day to keep trespassers away. It’s like being held hostage in your own house,” says Aarti Bansal, a chartered account staying in Sector 12 along the Zirakpur-Kalka highway.
“They roam in groups through Sector 4. It makes us uneasy. They ring the bell in the evening and request for a place to stay overnight. How do we know who they are? I’ve been forced to take leave for the safety of my family,” says Umesh Narang, an advocate in the Punjab and Haryana high court. “This case has got too much hype. Nobody is above the law so why are we being put through this uncertainty?” he says.
Cops face music
Vandana Kashyap, a housewife based in Sector 2, says her heart goes out for the cops. “I see how they have been patrolling the streets and the conditions in which they have to operate. “It’s a thankless job for them either way. But what I find ironical is that they search vehicles of residents and check identity cards of staff, while the dera followers in hundreds have a free run in adjoining lanes,” she says.
A resident of the neighbouring Sector 6, who is visiting her mother from Dubai and did not want to be named, said life was normal in the morning but the gates to her lane were closed by afternoon. “There is no dearth of essential supplies. We have stocked up on milk, bread and vegetables just in case. We used to go to the Gymkhana Club in Sector 3 for swimming but have discontinued that routine ever since this buildup,” she said.
“LPG supply, however, has been affected. My trucks with cylinders are held up in godowns on the outskirts of Panchkula. We can’t take the risk in such circumstances,” says Lily Bawa, a Congress councilor who owns a gas agency.
The sheer number of followers has raised concerns about the town’s sanitation. Carrying backpacks and bags, men and women dera followers walk, sit, sleep, eat and even defecate along roads, green belts and parks. “The Panchkula municipal corporation has a tough job on its hands,” says Narang.
Meanwhile, the followers spent the day reading newspapers, playing cards, chatting and making the most of the langar service. Fruit and ice-cream vendors followed by food stalls did a brisk business in the morning before they were sent packing by the police.
First Published: Aug 24, 2017 18:49 IST