Chandigarh: Strange as it may sound, security agencies in Punjab and Haryana have provided the highest security cover to three cult leaders - one who has been dead for almost a year and two other controversial sect leaders with criminal cases of rape, murder and religious blasphemy slapped on them.
Punjab Police and central security agencies continue to guard the place 24x7 where the body of Ashutosh Maharaj, the controversial leader of the Divya Jyoti Jagran Sansthan (DJJS), is lying at his sect headquarters at Nurmahal near Punjab's Jalandhar city.
The sect leader was declared "clinically dead" in January this year by medical experts but his body has been kept in deep freezer by the sect management and his close followers. They claim the sect leader has gone into "deep meditation" and will return to life.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court does not think so.
The court has ordered the Punjab government and the Punjab Police to get the final rites of Ashutosh's body done by Dec 15. The sect leadership and his followers are adamant that they will not allow his cremation.
Police sources told IANS that the body was being guarded by over 25 armed personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Punjab Police.
"The sect leader had Z-plus security (with 32 CRPF personnel since early 2000) following his confrontation with the Sikh community. This was cut to Z-category (15 CRPF personnel) in 2008," a police officer told IANS here.
In neighbouring Haryana, the controversial head of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh, too enjoys Z-plus security from central forces and Haryana Police despite facing serious cases of murder and rape.
With millions of followers in northern India and elsewhere, the sect leader is patronised by political parties and other influential people.
The sect leader, facing murder and rape cases in a CBI court in Panchkula, appears in court through video-conferencing from Sirsa town in Haryana. His sect headquarters is located near Sirsa.
Another controversial sect leader, Baba Bhaniarewala, too enjoys Z category security from central security forces and Punjab Police although he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment by a court in Haryana's Ambala town in May last year in a case of religious desecration.
This sect leader, based out of his Dera campus at Nurpur Bedi in Punjab's Ropar district, has been attacked earlier.
Last month, the Haryana Police fought pitched battles with private commandos of controversial sect leader Rampal in Haryana's Hisar district. Rampal, now in police custody, never got police protection.
There are other sect leaders in both states, some non-controversial, who enjoy security provided by the authorities.