ALSO READDera verdict: Punjab govt orders schools, colleges to remain shut on Aug 25 Dera verdict: Ram Rahim promises to be present in court, appeals for peace Dera verdict: 29 Punjab, Haryana-bound trains cancelled till 4 days Dera verdict: Curfew-like restrictions in Chandigarh, Panchkula Dera verdict: Army on standby; curfew imposed in Sirsa
Army columns arrived in Panchkula past midnight as scores of Dera followers gathered in the town ahead of a court verdict in a rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh tomorrow. The Haryana Police assisted by central forces were involved in an operation to flush out scores of Dera followers even as the sect head made a video appeal to his followers to go back home. The Army was deployed in Panchkula on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday, officials said. The Army was called out at Panchkula and Sirsa as thousands of Dera followers had gathered and tension prevailed in the region. "At the sect headquarters at Sirsa, police and paramilitary forces took out a flag march past midnight to enforce the curfew clamped at 10 pm for an indefinite period," Sirsa SP Ashwin Shenvi said. The Dera followers made it to Panchkula over the past three days despite prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 being in force. However, speaking to reporters in Panchkula late tonight, a senior police official said that restrictions regarding carrying of weapons was earlier imposed under Section 144, which was later on amended and a provision invoked banning assembly of five or more persons. The Dera chief has said that he would be reaching the court in Panchkula tomorrow for the verdict.
He is expected to reach Panchkula by a chopper. Haryana DGP B S Sandhu earlier said that a night-long operation would be carried out in Panchkula and the Dera followers would be moved out in buses arranged by the government. The followers were likely to be taken out in buses to nearby Ambala from where they would be asked to head to their respective homes. Security forces were faced with a tough situation as many Dera followers remained reluctant to move, saying they had come to the town on their own and would move only after having sect head's "darshan". The Dera followers could be seen occupying parks, roads and other available places like under the flyovers to pitch their tents. However, authorities said that they had sealed the road leading to the district court complex and nobody was being allowed on that route. Authorities used loud speakers to appeal to followers to move out of Panchkula. The sexual exploitation case was registered against Dera chief in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court after anonymous letters were circulated about the alleged sexual exploitation of two 'Sadhvis' (female followers) by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. However, the sect head has denied these charges.