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September 2017
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CBI court to sentence Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh today, Haryana on edge
 
(CHANDIGARH, Aug 27, 2017):Haryana was on edge, a day before the special CBI judge pronounces the sentence against the maverick Dera Sacha Sauda cult chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, convicted of raping his two women followers, in Rohtak jail today.

CBI court judge Jagdeep Singh will be flown to Rohtak district jail where he would pronounce the quantum of sentence against Singh, whose conviction on Friday saw his followers run riot in several places in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Ripples were also felt in Delhi and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh.

The death toll in violence and arson that immediately followed the conviction of the flamboyant chief of the sect that has millions of followers in India and abroad, meanwhile, has risen to 38, state's Director General of Police B S Sandhu said.

Police have registered 52 cases in connection with the violence which left a trail of destruction, particularly in Panchkula and Sirsa in Haryana, and arrested 926 people, Sandhu told a press conference in Chandigarh.

A multi-layer security cordon has been thrown around the jail where Singh has been lodged, Sandhu said.

The jail is located at Sunaria, on the outskirts of Rohtak city, which resembles a garrison town with security pickets all over the place.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had yesterday ordered the Haryana government to make necessary arrangements at the jail where the judge would sentence Singh in the 15-year-old case of sexual assault of two sadhvis.

Inspector General of Police (Rohtak range) Navdeep Virk, who is overseeing security arrangements in Rohtak, said there was a "complete clampdown" on dera centres known as (naam charcha ghar) and all its functionaries who could gather people for creating trouble have been put under detention in the state.

Sandhu, meanwhile said, Army was on standby in Rohtak to meet any eventuality.

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) prohibiting assembly of five or more persons, and carrying of firearms and other weapons is already in place in Rohtak.

All educational institutions, including government and private schools, colleges and other institutions in the entire state, will remain closed tomorrow, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said in an official release.

Sandhu said curfew has been lifted from all places in Haryana barring Sirsa, where the sect is heaquartered. Sirsa district administration relaxed curfew for five hours in and around the dera headquarters this morning.

There have been no reports of violence from anywhere in Haryana and Punjab since yesterday.

Train operations in Punjab and Haryana, severely affected by violence in two states, have been restored, except for the Delhi-Rohtak-Bathinda section, a railway ministry statement said in New Delhi.

The security clearance for the section is awaited from state authorities, it said.

Mobile internet services will remain suspended in Haryana and Punjab till 11:30 am on Tuesday. Internet lease lines on the premises of the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters at Sirsa will also be suspended till then, officials said.

Security forces were on high alert in Haryana and strict vigil was being maintained in sensitive districts including Panchkula, Sirsa, Rohtak and Fatehabad, they said.

At many sensitive places in Punjab too, security forces conducted flag marches and kept a tight vigil in sensitive areas.

Four rifles, including an AK-47, pistols and petrol bombs were among the weapons seized from the supporters of the sect.

Two cases of sedition have been registered against Dera followers, police said without giving much detail as they have to submit a report to the high court on Tuesday.

Under attack over the massive violence, the Haryana government had suspended Ashok Kumar, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Panchkula, saying his "defective" prohibitory orders allowed the crowd build-up in the district.

Meanwhile, authorities in Punjab and Haryana have started identifying movable and immovable assets of the cult on the directions of the high court, officials said.

Revenue officials of the two states are compiling details of properties and assets of the dera, a quasi-religious sect headed by Singh, who wields considerable political influence and instructs his followers which party to vote for during elections.

Banks have been asked to provide details of accounts of the dera.

"A list of the Dera's assets, incomes, bank accounts and properties is being prepared on a war footing," an official involved in the exercise in the twin states of Haryana and Punjab said.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the two states to submit by Tuesday a list of the dera's properties and assets which can be attached in case it is found that they were responsible for property after Singh's conviction.

Sedition and attempt to murder charges have, meanwhile, been slapped against seven persons, including five Haryana police personnel, who were part of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief's security detail when he had arrived at the Panchkula CBI court on August 25.

"Sedition charge has been slapped against seven persons, including five Haryana police personnel," Karambir Singh, Inspector, Panchkula Police (Sector-5), said today.

They have also been accused of attempt to murder, he added.

The seven securitymen accompanying Singh had allegedly tried to free him when the self-styled godman was brought outside the Panchkula court complex on Friday after the special CBI court convicted him. A scuffle had broken out between them and Haryana police personnel.


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