Dera Sacha Sauda chief convicted in rape case by CBI court

Solenn Plantier
Août 25, 2017

However, in what appeared to be some relief for stretched administrative machinery, Ram Rahim Singh said Thursday that he would appear in person before the special CBI court Friday while appealing to his followers to maintain peace.

Followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh overturn an OB van on the streets of Panchkula in Haryana on Friday.

Amid the rampage, Dera Sacha Sauda supporters set vehicles on fire, sending clouds of black smoke billowing over the city of Panchkula. The sale of acid has also been banned and arms dealers have been asked to close down their shops till further orders.

Meanwhile, Section 144 has been imposed in Chandigarh and as many as 74 trains have been cancelled for today in view of law and order situation in Haryana. Schools and colleges were closed.

Panchkula administrators had feared that a guilty verdict would trigger violence among the tens of thousands of followers who had camped overnight awaiting the verdict. The highways are giving a deserted look, causing a lot of inconvenience to the public.

Authorities ordered Internet and cellphone services shut down across both Haryana and Punjab as a security precaution.

Singh, who claims to have 60 million followers around the world, has been accused by India's elite Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of sexually assaulting two female former members of the sect.

The Punjab police have increased their measures because Dera followers were seeing stocking up on drums filled with petrol and diesel, sharp-edged weapons and stones at Naam Charcha Ghars in Faridkot.

Subsidised food, free medicines and availability of treatment for chronic diseases like cancer, knee replacement etc for the poor people are major reasons that draw people to the Dera. Scrutiny of the ashram grew when a journalist investigating Dera Sacha Sauda was shot dead the same year.

Above all, the spiritual Dera environment, in times when a majority of the people are living under stress and depression, gives relief to people apart from the available facilities.

Despite Dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim making an appeal to his followers to leave Panchkula, many of them have refused to relent and kept sitting along side roads and parks there.

"In case anybody indulges in violence or breach of peace, the Haryana government can take stern action against them", the bench said.

Police fired in the air and also lobbed tear gas and let loose water cannons on the protesters to quell the violence, which appeared to be spreading in Haryana, Punjab and even Rajasthan.

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