Ahead of the expected verdict on Friday in a rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the self-styled godman has confirmed that he will appear before the Panchkula court in person on 25 August.
The Dera chief took to his social media accounts on Thursday to announce his appearance. He has asked his followers to maintain peace.
Meanwhile, the Punjab and Haryana High Court pulled up Haryana government after lakhs of Dera supporters had gathered in the state. The court questioned the imposition of Section 144 when lakhs of Dera followers were already in the city, reported CNN-News18. A division bench of Justice SS Saron was responding to a petition filed by Panchkula resident Ravinder Singh Dhull. The plea sought directions for monitoring the security arrangements by the high court as despite prohibitory orders, more than 1.5 lakh people had already entered the district, The Times of India reported.
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Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar's had on Tuesday stated that the Dera chief would appear in court, which drew objection from Dera spokesperson Aditya Insan, who claimed, according to this NDTV report, that Khattar's comment had created confusion in the state.
The security officials in state are, however, unclear about the godman's arrival. According to The Indian Express, the Dera head's arrival is a top secret, known only to a couple of officers, and is yet to be shared with the Haryana police.
— ANI (@ANI) August 23, 2017
Curfew-like restrictions were imposed in both Haryana and Punjab on Thursday. The government is also mulling a ban on mobile internet services in case the situation warrants.
Taking precautionary measures to discourage more followers from reaching Panchkula, Haryana Roadways has stopped plying buses bound for Chandigarh and Panchkula.
Blaming the Haryana government for tense situation in the state due to the "hype" about a negative verdict, Dera had earlier assured that they will cooperate with the law, but denied allegations levelled against the chief. "The case has basically been registered on the basis of an anonymous letter. Now, for 15 years, the conspired letter remained anonymous. No victim or complaint surfaced despite an investigation by CBI into the matter. There is nobody connected to the anonymous letter or has recorded a statement till date," Insan was quoted as saying by India Today.
A special CBI court in Haryana’s Panchkula will pronounce its verdict in the rape case against the Dera chief on 25 August. The sect chief has been accused by a former female follower of raping her more than once inside the sprawling Dera campus on the outskirts of Sirsa town in Haryana, 260 km from Chandigarh. The case hearing has been going on since 2007.
According to IANS, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday directed authorities to withdraw 1,000 police personnel from VVIP security and deploy them to strengthen security in the state. Despite murder, conspiracy and rape charges against him, the godman enjoyed a Z-plus security cover provided by the government, because it is believed that he is a target for Sikh extremist groups.
Ahead of the verdict, the Chandigarh Police deployed around 5,000 policemen to be on duty till Saturday, reported The Indian Express. The authorities have sealed all entry and exit points of the city, and will conduct thorough check on vehicles moving in Chandigarh. A temporary jail has also been created at Sector 16 cricket stadium for Dera supporters found creating nuisance, the Chandigarh Director General of Police Tajender Singh Luthra confirmed.
The Centre is soon expected to respond to Punjab government's demand for additional forces after the chief minister wrote to Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday seeking deployment of 256 companies of Paramilitary forces in Punjab till 31 August, reported NewsX. The state has only received 75 companies of forces to maintain law and order.
Panchkula Beopar Mandal (PBM) has mulled keeping all shops closed on Friday, reported The Indian Express. PBM President Kuldeep Chitkara conveyed that the traders were worried and a meeting of all presidents has been convened on Thursday to announce this decision.
Both Punjab and Haryana, in which a large number of Dera followers reside, are bracing to tackle large scale violence if the verdict goes against the Dera chief. Dera followers, who are called “premis”, have already gathered in hundreds at the headquarters of the sect in Sirsa to show support to the Dera head. The Punjab police have stepped up measures after being informed about Dera followers stocking drums filled with petrol and diesel, sharp-edged weapons and stones at Naam Charcha Ghars in Faridkot.
With inputs from IANS
Updated Date: Aug 24, 2017 13:13 PM