Haryana Police launched a night-long operation to flush out Dera followers from Panchkula.
But the self-styled godman’s supporters have refused to back off.
We have sealed the road leading to district court complex in Panchkula, say authorities.
Ahead of the CBI special court verdict in Panchkula later today in a rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, his followers have ignored appeals by him and the administration to go home. They have, instead, chosen to continue to stay put in Panchkula, giving a tough time to the authorities to maintain law and order.
Helped by central forces, Haryana Police launched a night-long operation to flush out scores of Dera followers who had gathered over the past four days in Panchkula. But the self-styled godman’s supporters have largely refused to back off.
Security forces are struggling to deal with these Dera followers who are unwilling to budge, with most of them saying that they had came to the town on their own and leave only after the court delivered its ruling.
Meanwhile, the authorities say that they have sealed the road leading to the district court complex in Panchkula and that nobody is being allowed on that route.
“We will not move out of Panchkula till the time we have pitaji’s (Ram Rahim) ‘darshan’. We will wait till the court verdict,” said an aged follower, who had come from Bathinda in Punjab.
The Dera head is expected to reach Panchkula in the afternoon to remain present in the court before the verdict.
A little after midnight, a few columns of the Army also reached Panchkula after the state government sent a request to the Centre about the same.
SCHOOLS, COLLEGES SHUT DOWN IN PUNJAB, HARYANA
Haryana, Punjab and Union Territory Chandigarh have gone into lockdown since Friday, shutting down schools, colleges and paralysing transport services, including trains and buses. Mobile internet services have been suspended everywhere in these two states, except Faridabad and Gurgaon.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his Punjab counterpart Captain Amarinder Singh will be taking stock of the security situation in their respective states.
Apart from Haryana, Punjab too has a sizeable presence of Dera Sacha Sauda followers, including many in Bathinda.
Haryana DGP B S Sandhu had on Thursday said that night-long operations would be carried out in Panchkula and the Dera followers would be moved out in buses being arranged by the government.
However, even this morning, a significant number of Dera ‘premis’ could be seen occupying parks, camping near government buildings and pavements in different sectors of Panchkula, about 12 km from Chandigarh.
Despite the fact that the police used loud speakers througout the night to urge Dera followers to move out and cited prohibitory orders under Section 144, they paid no heed.
GURMEET RAHIM URGED FOLLOWERS TO ABIDE BY LAW IN VIDEO APPEAL
The sect head released a video late on Friday night, asking his followers to abide by law.
“I had earlier appealed to maintain peace and calm and asked (followers) not to go to Panchkula. All those (followers) who are in Panchkula should return home.”
“I have to go to the court for hearing the verdict and I will go to Panchkula. We should all abide by the law and maintain peace and calm”, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh said in his video appeal.
An estimated over one lakh Dera followers including men, women and children have assembled in Panchkula. UT Chandigarh Police has warned of stern action against Dera followers if they attempt to enter the city.
DERA FOLLOWERS ALSO CAMPING IN SIRSA
A large number of Dera followers are also camping in Sirsa, the headquarters of the sect, where authorities clamped curfew from 10 pm on Thursday. Army has been called in in Sirsa as well to deal with any law and order situation that may arise after the court verdict today.
The high court had slammed the Haryana government for allowing Dera followers to enter Panchkula in large numbers despite prohibitory orders being clamped, questioning why Section 144 had not been imposed strictly.
The special CBI court in Panchkula is set to pronounce the judgment in a sexual exploitation case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief in the afternoon.
The sexual exploitation case was registered against the 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 Dera chief has denied these charges.
(WITH INPUTS FROM PTI)
ALSO READ |