Special CBI judge Jagdeep Singh on Monday sentenced Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to 10 years of imprisonment. The sentencing came three days after the CBI court in Panchkula convicted Singh in a 2002 rape case. Due to risks of rising tensions in parts of Haryana and Punjab over the sentencing, the judge was flown into the special courtroom setup inside the Sunaria jail in Rohtak in a helicopter. A three-tier security ring was set up around the district jail.
During the hearing of arguments in the court before the sentencing, the prosecution asked for maximum punishment for Singh. The defence argued Singh is a social worker who has worked for the welfare of people and asked for leniency.
After Singh was convicted in the rape case on August 25, the followers of the Dera resorted to violent protests across several parts of Haryana and Delhi. At least 38 people were killed in the violent clashes, mostly in Panchkula. The administration has issued a stern warning to Dera followers and is keeping a close vigil on Rohtak and surrounding areas.
On Saturday, the Punjab and Haryana High Court slammed the Manohar Khattar government, and without mincing words, said the government was protecting the Dera. The court also asked Khattar to explain why thousands of followers were allowed to enter Panchkula ahead of the verdict.
Haryana police launched a crackdown on Dera’s congregation centres after the violence on suspicion that followers of Singh could be storing weapons to engage in violent protests after the sentencing.
Meanwhile, police in Haryana, Punjab and Delhi have been on high alert since early morning on Monday. Speaking to reporters, Delhi police officials had earlier said that they are ready to face any eventuality after the sentencing. On Saturday Haryana DGP also B S Sadhu said that there will not be a repeat of Panchkula violence. He added that police officials have been given a free hand to control the protesters.
Schools remained shut down on Monday in parts of Haryana and Punjab ahead of the sentencing.