Enraged by the rape conviction of self-styled godman Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh today, his followers went on the rampage, hurling stones and vandalising media vehicles. Immediately after a court here convicted the Dera Sacha Sauda chief, many of his followers, including a large number of women, broke police barricades and security cordons. At least three OB vans of private television channels were damaged. One van was overturned by a mob.
The India Today Group’s TV channel showed pictures of its correspondent and cameraman being attacked while they were travelling in a van in Sirsa, the Dera’s headquarters. The camera captured images of the windshield and windows being struck by men with sticks.
The glass shattered and one of the occupants of the van was heard moaning. Pictures later showed his bloodied face. The police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells on sections of the crowds, many of them camping since last night on the streets of Panchkula.
The police also used water cannons and batons on the protesters to bring the situation under control. CBI judge Jagdeep Singh, while holding the 50-year-old Dera chief guilty of rape, said the quantum of sentence would be pronounced on August 28, CBI counsel HPS Verma told reporters outside the court.
The punishment can be a jail term of not less than seven years but may even extend to life imprisonment. Army personnel and central paramilitary forces took positions around the CBI court complex in Panchkula, as the area close to the complex was sealed.