Sirsa: Haryana and Punjab Police are on high alert as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan have arrived there ahead of the impending verdict in a rape case against him.
To keep an eye on the followers, the police are planning to use drones. They have also stocked pellet guns, should they be needed to disperse mobs. The cricket stadium in Sector 16, Chandigarh, has been designated as a temporary jail to detain DSS devotees in case of a riot like situation.
The police are wary of a repeat of the 2014 situation when Baba Rampal of Rohtak's Satlok Ashram had refused to present himself in the court despite a non-bailable warrant against him. The police had to resort to force to control his followers, who had taken up arms.
The flamboyant DSS chief's followers, who are no different than Rampal's army, are getting ready for a showdown with the security forces of Punjab and Haryana.
Anticipating the worst, an indictment of the Dera chief, both sides — the police and the devotees — are preparing for a confrontation. The devotees say an adverse verdict is "out of question". Women devotees of the charismatic leader are a raucous lot, brandishing lathis and warning that "somebody will pay" if the chief is indicted.
"He is God for us. We cannot do anything without him. A God does not do harm to anyone," said a staunch female devotee in Sirsa.
Ram Niwas, additional chief secretary, Home, Haryana, said that Section 144 has been imposed across the state and carrying any kind of stick or weapon has been prohibited at Naam Charcha Ghar of Dera followers.
Security has been beefed up outside the Panchkula CBI court, where the Dera chief has been ordered to appear in person on 25 August. Busloads of followers have reached the court premise over the last two days.
The godman was charged with rape of a female devotee in 1999. The CBI took over the investigation in 2002. On 17 August, the special CBI court of Panchkula concluded hearing in the case but reserved pronouncing the verdict for 25 August.
For the August 17 hearing, Singh was recused from appearing in person at Panchkula by the court. The Dera chief had cited medical reasons for not attending court in person.
The Dera chief's weeklong birthday celebrations, which started on 15 August, have been extended until the verdict date. Devotees have vowed to "finish off anyone who dares arrest Guru". Sources said more than a lakh passionate devotees are inside the 800-acre campus along Begu Road in Sirsa. Reportedly, the police are barred entry here.
To counter the DSS followers, para-military forces, especially of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), have taken up positions at all the main chowks in Sirsa.
Haryana Police and RAF are conducting flag marches in Sirsa town to instil confidence in the local population. All vehicles heading to Sirsa are being checked with a scanner.
The recently transferred Superintendent of Police of Sirsa, Ashwin Shenvi, has ordered citizens to deposit their licensed weapons with the police.
Some khap leaders and caste organisations have come forward to extend support to the DSS and have vowed to stand by him. Sources reveal that followers are also walking to reach the court area after their vehicles were barred entry.
Police expect that an adverse verdict could trigger violence at several locations such as Panchkula, Chandigarh, Sirsa and Fatehabad, where the self-proclaimed godman's followers have gathered in large numbers over the last two days.
The state's request for 115 companies of para-military forces has been accepted by the Centre. Of this, 80 companies have been deployed in Punjab and the rest 35 in Haryana. These crack troops would be kept in reserve, to step in to take charge if large-scale violence breaks out. Fatehabad Deputy Commissioner Hardeep Singh said the district was fully prepared after receiving six companies of the RAF.
People in all 22 Haryana districts have been warned against rumour-mongers on social media. Hospitals have been told to be ready for emergencies. The police are also contemplating banning internet on the day of the verdict.
The scene at Dera
When Firstpost visited Singh's ashram in Sirsa earlier this week, we were met with a scene of revelry. Clad in a black T-shirt, red pants and designer goggles, a cap on his head, the Dera chief freely mixed with his followers.
This year, to celebrate his birthday, DSS devotees from Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan started assembling at the Dera from 10 August onwards and many have not left the campus since. The Dera chief celebrated his 50th birthday on 15 August at the Dera campus. He cut a 3,000-kilogram birthday cake to thunderous applause from his devotees.
Haryana education minister Ram Bilas Sharma was on hand to 'wish him a long life'. The minister announced a Rs 51 lakh donation from his discretionary quota to the Dera to promote sports.
Sunita Rani, a Dera follower, said, "History is witness to the fact that those who tried to show a good path to masses had to face hurdles. But, we followers (of Dera chief) are awake and would not let evil forces to harass our Guru in the name of law or justice."
The authors are freelance writers. Both are members of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.
Updated Date: Aug 23, 2017 14:44 PM