Reinforced security in Rohtak prior to Dera’s main sentence; Curfew in Sirsa

Mysuru city police have beefed up security at the Mysuru unit of the Dera Sucha Souda located off Mysuru-Bengaluru road at Siddalingapura on the outskirts of the city

CHANDIGARH: Security forces were on alert again Sunday in Haryana and Punjab, as both states prepared for Monday’s announcement of punishment to the head of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was Convicted of rape by a special IWC tribunal.

The sentence will be carried out in a specially established court within the district jail facility in Sunaria near Rohtak, 70 km from Delhi, where Ram Rahim was taken and lodged after his conviction.

Special Judge Jagdeep Singh, who on Friday had convicted Dera’s boss of raping and sexually exploiting two disciples in 2002, will be transferred to Rohtak on Monday to announce the punishment quantum.

On Sunday, security forces prepared for any eventuality in and around the city of Rohtak in view of the ruling of the head of the sect, which has lakhs of followers mainly in Punjab and Haryana.

Areas affected by violence in both states remained peaceful on Sunday, despite security forces remaining on alert in both states, authorities said.

At Sirsa, 260 km away, where the curfew was relaxed Sunday morning for three hours, he saw more followers of Dera bound for the seat of the sect on the outskirts of the city as tension still prevailed.

The army and paramilitary forces are stationed outside the compound and have repeatedly appealed to the followers of the sect to evacuate the facility. However, local officials said thousands of supporters were still inside the complex, which is like a mini-city with a huge stadium, educational institutions, factories, markets and hospitals inside.

A media team from a national news channel was attacked at Sirsa by Dera’s followers, who chased them and assaulted them in the presence of the Haryana Police.

The attackers tried to snatch the camera and damage it. The media team received minor injuries before being rescued by nearby security forces. However, the assailants took their car away.

Dera’s followers had attacked the media in Panchkula on Friday after the verdict of the rape case against the head of the cult and the outdoor broadcasters were set on fire by the mobs.

Haryana Director General of Police B.S. Sandhu, meanwhile, said no incident had been reported from any part of the state in the past 24 hours.

“Our top priority is to ensure security for the sentence in Sunaria (Rohtak) tomorrow (Monday), we are fully prepared with police, paramilitary and army personnel on hold,” he said.

“We have searched and disinfected all the sect’s premises in various places,” he said, adding that 826 arrests have so far been made in connection with the violence.

Authorities are sensing that the situation could take a violent turn after the disgraced man’s sentence on Monday.

With increasing tension in parts of Haryana and Punjab following the ruling, both states suspended mobile Internet services until August 29 (Tuesday). In Haryana, all schools and other educational institutions have been ordered to remain closed on Monday.

In the districts of Fatehabad, Kaithal and Ambala, prohibited orders were imposed, except the assembly of five or more persons and the carrying of firearms and other weapons.

The verdict of the sentence led to violence leaving 36 people dead. Of these, 30 died in Panchkula, where the court was located, while six died in the city of Sirsa. More than 250 people were injured.