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Ram Rahim verdict: Schools shut, Army on standby ahead of Dera chief’s sentencing tomorrow

The special CBI judge will tomorrow pronounce the sentence against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, convicted of raping his two women followers.

Edited by: India TV News Desk, Chandigarh [ Published on: August 27, 2017 23:24 IST ]
Army on standby ahead of Dera chief’s sentencing tomorrow
Image Source : PTI Army on standby ahead of Dera chief’s sentencing tomorrow

Haryana was on edge today, a day before the special CBI judge pronounces the sentence against the maverick Dera Sacha Sauda cult chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, convicted of raping his two women followers, in Rohtak jail tomorrow. Mohammad Akil, Haryana ADGP (Law and Order) said court proceedings will begin around 2:30 PM on Monday. CBI court judge Jagdeep Singh will be flown to Rohtak district jail where he would pronounce the quantum of sentence against Singh, whose conviction on Friday saw his followers run riot in several places in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Ripples were also felt in Delhi and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. 

The death toll in violence and arson that immediately followed the conviction of the flamboyant chief of the sect that has millions of followers in India and abroad, meanwhile, has risen to 38, state's Director General of Police B S Sandhu said. 

Police have registered 52 cases in connection with the violence which left a trail of destruction, particularly in Panchkula and Sirsa in Haryana, and arrested 926 people, Sandhu told a press conference in Chandigarh. 

Multi-layer security around Rohtak jail

A multi-layer security cordon has been thrown around the jail where Singh has been lodged, Sandhu said. 

The jail is located at Sunaria, on the outskirts of Rohtak city, which resembles a garrison town with security pickets all over the place. 

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had yesterday ordered the Haryana government to make necessary arrangements at the jail where the judge would sentence Singh in the 15-year-old case of sexual assault of two sadhvis. 

Inspector General of Police (Rohtak range) Navdeep Virk, who is overseeing security arrangements in Rohtak, said there was a "complete clampdown" on dera centres known as (naam charcha ghar) and all its functionaries who could gather people for creating trouble have been put under detention in the state. 

Sandhu, meanwhile said, Army was on standby in Rohtak to meet any eventuality. 

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) prohibiting assembly of five or more persons, and carrying of firearms and other weapons is already in place in Rohtak. 

Violence may erupt in Haryana tomorrow: CID 

Violence may erupt in Haryana tomorrow after the quantum of sentence is pronounced against Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a rape case, state's intelligence agency cautioned today. "It has been reported by IG/CID that the situation is tense and violence may again continue for several days, especially on August 28, when the quantum of punishment will be announced," an official statement quoting Additional Chief Secretary, Home Department, Ram Niwas, said. 

Sandhu assured that maintaining law and order would be the top priority for the police tomorrow. 

"The top priority now is to ensure that law and order is maintained when the sentencing of convicted Dera Sacha Sauda chief takes place in Rohtak tomorrow," he said. 

Educational institutions to remain shut tomorrow 

All educational institutions, including government and private schools, colleges and other institutions in the entire state, will remain closed tomorrow, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said in an official release. 

"All educational institutions, including government and private schools, colleges and other institutions in the entire state, will remain closed tomorrow," Haryana's Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Ram Niwas, said in an official release. 

As a precautionary measure, the Punjab government also ordered closure of all educational institutions, including government and private schools and colleges besides technical institutions, in the 13 sensitive Malwa belt districts. The decision was taken by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in view of the sensitivity of the matter and the heightened tension in the wake of the conviction of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief, an official spokesperson said here today. 

He said the Deputy Commissioners of all the 13 sensitive districts of the Malwa region--Sri Muktsar Sahib, Bathinda, Barnala, Mansa, Sangrur, Patiala, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Moga, Faridkot, Ludhiana, Mohali and Fatehgarh Sahib have been asked to announce that the educational institutions in their respective districts will remain closed. 

However, in Union Territory Chandigarh, all schools, colleges and other educational institutions, which had remained shut for the past 

few days owing to the tense situation, will function normally from August 28, an official release said today. 

Curfew only in Sirsa

Sandhu said curfew has been lifted from all places in Haryana barring Sirsa, where the sect is heaquartered. Sirsa district administration relaxed curfew for five hours in and around the dera headquarters this morning.

There have been no reports of violence from anywhere in Haryana and Punjab since yesterday. 

Train operations in Punjab and Haryana, severely affected by violence in two states, have been restored, except for the Delhi-Rohtak-Bathinda section, a railway ministry statement said in New Delhi. 

The security clearance for the section is awaited from state authorities, it said. 

Mobile internet services will remain suspended in Haryana and Punjab till 11:30 am on Tuesday. Internet lease lines on the premises of the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters at Sirsa will also be suspended till then, officials said. 

Security forces were on high alert in Haryana and strict vigil was being maintained in sensitive districts including Panchkula, Sirsa, Rohtak and Fatehabad, they said. 

At many sensitive places in Punjab too, security forces conducted flag marches and kept a tight vigil in sensitive areas. 

Four rifles, including an AK-47, pistols and petrol bombs were among the weapons seized from the supporters of the sect. Two cases of sedition have been registered against Dera followers, police said without giving much detail as they have to submit a report to the high court on Tuesday. 

Under attack over the massive violence, the Haryana government had suspended Ashok Kumar, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Panchkula, saying his "defective" prohibitory orders allowed the crowd build-up in the district. 

Punjab, Haryana start identifying Dera assets

Meanwhile, authorities in Punjab and Haryana have started identifying movable and immovable assets of the cult on the directions of the high court, officials said. 

Revenue officials of the two states are compiling details of properties and assets of the dera, a quasi-religious sect headed by Singh, who wields considerable political influence and instructs his followers which party to vote for during elections. 

Banks have been asked to provide details of accounts of the dera. 

"A list of the Dera's assets, incomes, bank accounts and properties is being prepared on a war footing," an official involved in the exercise in the twin states of Haryana and Punjab said. 

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the two states to submit by Tuesday a list of the dera's properties and assets which can be attached in case it is found that they were responsible for property after Singh's conviction. 

Sedition and attempt to murder charges have, meanwhile, been slapped against seven persons, including five Haryana police personnel, who were part of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief's security detail when he had arrived at the Panchkula CBI court on August 25. 

"Sedition charge has been slapped against seven persons, including five Haryana police personnel," Karambir Singh, Inspector, Panchkula Police (Sector-5), said today. 

They have also been accused of attempt to murder, he added. 

The seven securitymen accompanying Singh had allegedly tried to free him when the self-styled godman was brought outside the Panchkula court complex on Friday after the special CBI court convicted him. A scuffle had broken out between them and Haryana police personnel.

Over 100 naam charcha ghars santised, search at Dera headquarters in Sirsa likely after chief's sentencing 

Haryana Police today said it might conduct search at the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters in Sirsa after the sentencing of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a rape case tomorrow. Over 100 congregation centres of the Dera have been "santitised" with the recovery of a large number of weapons, police said. 

Following Friday's mayhem in Panchkula after the conviction of the Dera chief, the Haryana government has launched a crackdown on congregation centres of the Dera where police suspected weapons and other materials could have been hidden. Haryana DGP B S Sandhu today said the police would try to conduct check at the Dera headquarters after the quantum of the sentence is pronounced in the rape case at a Rohtak jail tomorrow. 

He was asked if there was any move to conduct search at the Dera headquarters after the Dera centres across the state were searched. 

"As far as Sirsa (Dera) is concerned, people (Dera followers) are coming out of it (Dera premises). We have also been facilitating them to come out (of Dera premises) since yesterday," he told reporters here. 

"After the sentence is pronounced tomorrow, we will try to carry out search at the Dera. But as of now, there is no such plan," Sandhu said. 

"Haryana Police has sanitised 103 'naam charcha ghars' (congregation centres) of the Dera Sacha Sauda in different districts, and recovered 14 motorcycles, one tractor, four other two-wheelers and one car, besides a large number of weapons and other objectionable items," the DGP said. 

The police chief said 17 'naam charcha ghars' have been sanitised in district Fatehabad, 13 in Ambala, 10 each in Kurukshetra and Karnal, nine each in Kaithal and Panipat, seven in Yamunanagar, six in Jind, four each in Panchkula and Hisar, three in Bhiwani, two each in Sonepat, Jhajjar, Hansi and Rewari, and one each in Gurugram, Faridabad and Rohtak. 

The DGP said one big knife, one sword and 18 'gandasi' (sharp-edged weapon) were recovered from the congregation centres. 

Apart from these, 104 sticks, 48 iron rods, 21 bottles of diesel, petrol and kerosene, two grass cutter swords, three axes, five sickles, two saws, two scissors, 2,574 lathis, and 66 pepper sprays were recovered, he said. 

To a query, the DGP said several areas in Sirsa, Hisar, Jind, Fatehabad and Hansi where there was presence of Dera followers have been secured. 

On the chief minister's comment that some anti-social elements had mixed up with the Dera followers in Panchkula and resorted to violence, the DGP said that the whole episode was being monitored by the high court. 

"We have to file the reply in the court. We are verifying each issue... Our top priority is to maintain peace in the state," he said. 

The DGP said that details of properties of the Dera was being collected. "The high court has asked for details of the properties and accounts of the Dera," he said.

(With PTI inputs)

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