THE PUNJAB government has expressed serious apprehensions about the law and order situation in the state in the wake of the upcoming August 25 verdict in the rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. “There is apprehension among DSS [Dera Sacha Sauda] followers that the judicial verdict can go against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who may be pronounced guilty and there may be jubilation among radical Sikhs,” said the Punjab Home department. Quoting intelligence reports, it has written to the Union Home Secretary, requesting 256 companies of central armed police forces to Punjab for 11 days from August 21 to August 31.
A CBI court in Panchkula will pronounce the verdict in the alleged rape of a Sadhvi in which Gurmeet Ram Rahim is the accused. The state home department said there were 13 districts with sizeable Dera followers in Punjab and 12 companies of paramilitary force are to be deployed in each of those districts. In three police commissionerates of Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar, 10 companies is the projected requirement and five companies each for 11 other districts. Another 15 companies were projected to be deployed to secure the railway network.
There are 98 Naam Charcha Ghars, the name given to Dera religious halls across Punjab and the state wants to deploy forces at each to prevent an outbreak of violence around these. “A lot of material is already circulating on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other platforms, leading to the building-up of an atmosphere of distrust and anger,” said a communique by the Punjab Home department to the Union Home Secretary, adding that Punjab had already begun meticulous planning and preparations to meet any eventualty.
“Detailed meetings are being held to formulate strategy and discuss various important measures to tackle any situation. All the resources are being mobilised and orders have been issued that there is 100 per cent force mobilisation in all the districts. In addition to the force available at district level, additional manpower from the armed battalions is also being mobilised. As many as 40 companies of armed police, 19 anti-riot police teams, 03 Striking Groups and 01 Ghatak Team have been mobilised. Further, 7550 police personnel from various units and wings, including training institutes, have been mobilised for deployment to face the current challenge. Army authorities have also been alerted so that their assistance can be taken as and when the need arises,” it said.
Making the case for central help, the communique said available and mobilised forces of the state police alone will not be sufficient to tackle the grave and precarious law and order situation that may arise if an adverse verdict is passed against the Dera Sacha Sauda chief. Adding to the tension are the hostile relations between Sikhs and Dera followers.
Ever since he invited the ire of the Sikhs by allegedly imitating the tenth Sikh Guru at a ceremony akin to the creation of the Khalsa, during which he is said to have worn clothes similar to those worn by the Sikh guru, the community has been hostile towards the Dera followers. SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema said, “It is the duty of the state government to take precautionary measures to maintain law and order. It is not a political issue.”