The Army was called out in Panchkula on Thursday, where a CBI court
is set to deliver its verdict in a rape case against Dera
Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on Friday, even as large parts of Haryana, Punjab
remained in a virtual lock-down mode.
In Sirsa also, where the Dera
Sacha Sauda is based, army was called out to ensure peace. A curfew was imposed in the highly sensitive Sirsa town and three neighbouring villages on Thursday, officials said.Meanwhile, thousands of ‘premis’, as Dera
followers are known, continued to flock to Panchkula for a glimpse of their Pita ji, posing a tough challenge for the security agencies.
Sacha Sauda followers, estimated to be over 150,000, camped in parks, on the road in Panchkula to show solidarity with their icon. However, their whopping numbers numbers created a security nightmare.
The inability of the Manohar Lal Khattar government
to stop the massive build up earned it a rap on Thursday from the Punjab
which made it clear it would not allow a repeat of violence witnessed during last year’s Jat agitation when several people were killed. The court, which was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Panchkula resident, warned that it could even take action against the Haryana
DGP if proper security arrangements were not made. The Court
also asked the Centre to provide adequate forces for the maintenance of law and order.
In neighbouring Punjab, Chief Minister Amariner Singh authorised the state DGP Suresh Arora to impose curfew, if necessary, to maintain law and order.
Fearing trouble, especially if the verdict goes against the controversial Dera
chief, thousands of jawans, including 15,000 paramilitary troops, have been deployed in sensitive areas across Punjab
and Haryana. Dera
Sacha Sauda has a huge following in both the states, which are on a high alert.
Mobile internet services were suspended for 72 hours in both the states and their joint capital Chandigarh
while authorities are keeping a close watch on social media posts also, officials said.
However, in what appeared to be some relief for a stretched administrative machinery, Ram Rahim Singh said he would appear in person before the special CBI court
tomorrow while appealing to his followers to maintain peace. “I have always respected the law. Even though I am having a backache, still abiding by law, I will go to court
(tomorrow). I have full faith in God. Everyone should maintain peace,” the sect chief tweeted.
The sexual exploitation case was registered against the Dera
chief in 2002 by the CBI
on the directions of the Punjab
after anonymous letters were circulated about the alleged sexual exploitation of two ‘sadhvis’ (female followers) by Ram Rahim Singh. The Dera
chief, however, has denied these charges. Apart from the Army, which has been called out in Sirsa and Panchkula and is on the standby in other areas, the Centre has rushed as many as 150 companies of paramilitary forces to Punjab
“The central government
has assured all possible help to the two state governments in dealing with any situation as a large number of followers of the Dera
chief have started arriving in Panchkula, Chandigarh
and nearby areas,” said another home ministry official.
Flag marches were carried out by security forces in Panchkula, Sirsa, Hissar and other places while many hospitals were also put on alert as a precautionary measure, the official said.
The police were keeping a close watch on social media, particularly WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter, and have asked people not to spread rumours, he said.
Meanwhile in Chandigarh, a decision to suspend mobile Internet services was taken in a coordination committee meeting chaired by Punjab
Governor and UT Administrator, V P Singh Badnore.
“Mobile Internet and data services have been suspended for 72 hours in Punjab, Haryana
and UT Chandigarh
with immediate effect,” Haryana
Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said.
A notification in this regard was being issued, he added.
Niwas said that the ministry of railways had been requested to immediately stop the train movement towards Chandigarh
for two days.
Similarly, buses of Haryana
Roadways coming to Chandigarh
and Panchkula had already been stopped for two days, he added added.
A joint control room of Haryana
would be set up in sector-9, Chandigarh
where a police officer each from both the states would be deployed for better coordination, he said.