Ram Rahim rape verdict: Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh in lockdown

Chandigarh: Haryana DGP BS Sandhu has given the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh time till midnight on August 24 to leave Panchkula, and said the police will start a massive operation to detain supporters after the deadline.
Close to 5,000 supporters that had dug in near the CBI court where Friday’s hearing will take place have been flushed out and an area of 1-km radius around the court premises has been sanitized, the Haryana top cop said. He said police will start moving the supporters soon and has arranged buses for them.
The Army was also called in the highly-sensitive Panchkula and Sirsa districts to deal with any law and order situation that may arise in the wake of the rape case verdict involving Ram Rahim. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar spoke to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defense Minister Arun Jaitley and apprised them of the emerging law and order situation.
Earlier in the day, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had asked Dera Sacha Sauda to appeal to its supporters to leave Panchkula and not gather in such large numbers.
Lakhs of followers of the Dera chief have descended on the Haryana town and both Punjab and Haryana remained on high alert.
Fearing trouble, especially if the verdict goes against Ram Rahim, thousands of jawans, including 15,000 paramilitary troops, have been deployed in sensitive areas across the two states. A curfew has also been imposed in Sirsa, Haryana, where Dera followers have also been arriving in great numbers at the sect headquarters.
Mobile internet services have also been suspended for 72 hours in both the states and their joint capital Chandigarh. Authorities are also keeping a close watch on social media posts, officials said. The authorities also restricted movement of trains and buses towards Panchkula.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said the state has taken all preventive measures. “I have told the DGP to take appropriate action after reviewing the situation. I have authorized the police to impose a curfew if there is any trouble. If needed, we will take help from the Army,” he said.
However, in what appeared to be some relief for a stretched administrative machinery, Ram Rahim Singh said on August 24 that he would appear in person before the special CBI court on Friday and appealed to his followers to maintain peace.
“I have always respected the law. Even though I have a backache, still abiding by law, I will go to court (tomorrow). I have full faith in God. Everyone should maintain peace,” he tweeted.
The sexual exploitation case was registered against the Dera chief in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the High Court after anonymous letters were circulated about the alleged sexual exploitation of two ‘sadhvis’ (female followers) by Ram Rahim Singh. The Dera chief, however, has denied these charges. In Panchkula near Chandigarh, thousands of Dera supporters, including women and elderly, arrived and were camping in parks and open spaces. More ‘premis’, as the Dera followers are known, were pouring in. To ensure there is no trouble, there was heavy police deployment as well.
The Center has rushed as many as 150 companies of paramilitary forces to Punjab and Haryana to assist the police forces in maintaining law and order, a senior Union home ministry official said. One paramilitary company comprises over 100 personnel.
“The central government has assured all possible help to the two state governments in dealing with any situation as a large number of followers of the Dera chief have started arriving in Panchkula, Chandigarh and nearby areas,” said another home ministry official.
We are in constant touch with the governments of Punjab and Haryana and have given them adequate forces, he added.
Flag marches were carried out by security forces in Panchkula, Sirsa, Hissar and other places while many hospitals were also put on alert as a precautionary measure, the official said.
The police were keeping a close watch on social media, particularly WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter, and have asked people not to spread rumors, he said. Bus services on many routes were also suspended as a precautionary measure.
A joint control room of Haryana and Punjab would be set up in sector-9, Chandigarh where a police officer each from both the states would be deployed for better coordination, said Haryana additional chief secretary Ram Niwas. He said that as per earlier orders, Section 144 was imposed in all districts.
He added that Dera followers were being flushed out from sensitive areas. Niwas said that ten senior IPS officers had been deployed and two Director General level officers of the police department were also focusing to ensure peace and maintaining law and order in the state.
Meanwhile, the Haryana government declared the Chaudhary Tau Devi Lal stadium complex, Sector-3, Panchkula and Dalbir Singh Indoor stadium, Sirsa as ‘special jails’.
Earlier, the Chandigarh home department had declared the cricket stadium in Sector 16, which is associated with early training days of legendary Kapil Dev, as a ‘temporary jail on August 25’, the day of the verdict. The Punjab government on August 24 declared that government offices situated at Chandigarh would be closed on August 25.

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