Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh conviction highlights: Violence kills 30 in Panchkula, Dera chief’s Z security to be withdrawn

Ram Rahim rape case verdict LIVE updates: Clashes erupted between followers of the Dera chief and the security forces following the court verdict. Buildings and railway stations were torched. OB vans were vandalized.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 26, 2017 9:44:46 am
Smoke rising from an area near the Panchkula CBI court complex where Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was found guilty of rape (AP photo)

At least 30 people were killed and over 250 injured in widespread violence that erupted soon after godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted of rape by CBI court in Panchkula. Curfew has been imposed in various parts of Haryana and Punjab. It has also been extended to Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad. Within few hours of the pronouncement, Dera followers gathered in thousands, unleashed violence and set afire government buildings and vehicles in Panchkula.

Police and paramilitary tried to control the violence using teargas shells and firing. Dera Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is currently lodged in a special jail in Rohtak. His quantum of sentence will be argued on August 28 through a video conferencing. Several leaders condemned the violence. The Dera chief faces up to seven years in jail. PM Modi urged officials to work round the clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required.

Follow LIVE updates | Ram Rahim rape case verdict in pictures 

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5.00 am: 485 train services have been affected (due to the violence). Of these, 445 stood cancelled: Neeraj Sharma, spokesperson, Northern Railway, said.

4.00 am: Dera Sacha Sauda followers tried creating mischief, case has been registered. We have CCTV footage, probe underway: Madhur Verma, Delhi Police

3.00 am: Baghpat District Magistrate directs all schools in the region to remain closed today in Uttar Pradesh

2.00 am: Curfew imposed in Sangrur, security stepped up after violent protests by Dera followers post Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s conviction.

1.00 am: According to railway officials, as many as 445 trains have been cancelled due to the law and order situation in Punjab and Haryana: PTI

11.35 pm: Commenting on the attack on the media, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said,”Rule of law is a pillar of democracy, let’s respect it but govt must allow accurate reporting by media to ensure transparency and accountability.”

11.28 pm: “PM Modi’s exhortation turned on its head by CM Khattar. Haryana’s mantra is ‘maximum government, minimum governance,” said Chidambaram.

11.26 pm: Taking a dig at Haryana Chief Minister, Congress leader P Chidambaram said, “CM Khattar sets new standard for ‘maximum government, minimum governance’.”

10.57 pm: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urges him to take immediate and necessary action to ensure the protection of life and property of the citizens. “I have personally been receiving calls from Malayalees who are in fear of their life and property , from the affected areas. May I request you to take immediate and necessary action to ensure that the life and property of all our citizens are protected without fail. Strict action against those behind these unprecedented acts of violence may also be ensured,” the Kerala CM wrote.

10.50 pm: As per ANI, section 144 has been imposed in Uttarakhand’s Nainital.

10:35 pm: Following the violence erupted after Dera chief’s verdict,  Delhi Transport has suspended inter-state as well as Delhi-Lahore bus services, reports PTI.

10:15 pm: Watch video of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim in police custody soon after his conviction. Gurmeet Ram Rahim was accompanied by his daughter when he reached the courtroom in Panchkula after travelling from the sect headquarters at Sirsa.

 

The mob of Dera followers seen pelting stones on security forces on the highway between Panchkula-Zirakpur in after the verdict on Dera chief.

Express photo by Jaipal Singh.

10:00 pm:  IGP Amitabh Dhillons is seen making the announcement at Shah Satnam Chowk to the aware public to remain inside houses and cooperate with police and administration.

Express Photo by Manoj Dhaka

9:50 pm: Tightening the security in various parts of Haryana and Punjab, the government has deployed six column army in Panchkula, two columns army in Sirsa, one column army Mansa and Mukhtsar. The police have blocked the road in Sirsa using razor wires.

Express Photo by Manoj Dhaka

9:22 pm: Union cabinet minister Smriti Irani in a tweet reminded media channels not to sensationalise events that cause panic and distress among the people. ” Drawing attention of News Channels to Clause B of Fundamental Std. of NBSA refraining channels from causing panic, distress & undue fear,” said Irani in a tweet.

9:12 pm: Taking preventive measures, the Chandigarh police has arrested six private commandos of Ram Rahim Singh, weapons and petrol cans has also been seized from them. Police also detained 81 people, said Chandigarh DGP Tejinder Singh Luthra.

9:05 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet condemned the violence following the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief and termed it as deeply distressing. “The law & order situation is being closely monitored. I reviewed the situation with NSA & Home Secretary,” tweeted PM Modi. He further urged officials to work round the clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required.

8:56 pm: Pictures from the violence: This is the carnage that followed Ram Rahim conviction

8:55 pm: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar today visited the Civil Hospital in Panchkula to meet those injured in violent protests. The chief minister has directed best possible treatment for the injured. He also said, “Haryana Government had made complete arrangements but the mob was really huge.”

8:45 pm: Schools in Ghaziabad region will remain closed on Saturday directed the  District Magistrate. Delhi Police has imposed Section 144 CrPC in 11 districts of Delhi including New Delhi.

8:34 pm: Following Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s conviction, Z category security to him will be withdrawn. Rampant violence in various parts of Haryana and Punjab has led to killing of 30 people and more than 250 have been injured, reports PTI.

8:32 pm: Curfew has been imposed in five districts of Punjab due to violent incidents post-Dera Sacha Sauda verdict. These include: Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozepur, Fazilka and Patiala. In Fazilka- only Abohar constituency is under curfew. In all 8 dera followers have been arrested in Bathinda while 10 have been rounded up in Mansa. In Mansa all the Sacha Sauda deras have been vacated and followers have been forced to go back to their houses. Naveen Singla, SSP Bathinda told that miscreants were all dera followers and they have been booked under waging the war against state and damage to public property

8:30 pm:  Supporting Dera Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj said,  “One person alleging sexual exploitation but crores stand with him today,why those crores of ppl are not being heard?” “If even bigger incidents take place, the court will also be responsible not just Dera people,”he added.

8:15 pm: Soon after Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s conviction was announced, he was lodged in a make-shift jail at a police training centre in Rohtak. “Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been put in (special jail at) PTC Sunaria,” said Rohtak Deputy Commissioner Atul Kumar as quoted by PTI

8:08 pm:  One of the Injured Dera follower is taken to the Civil hospital in sector 6 during clash between Dera followers and force after the dera verdict in Panchkula on Friday, August 25 2017. Express Photo by Sahil Walia

8:00 pm:  Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s quantum of punishment will be argued through a video conference on Monday, August 28, said CBI sources as quoted by PTI. The Godman was today convicted in a 15-year old rape case.

7:56 pm: Scenes from the Panchkula hospital post violence- Express Photo by Sahil Walia

7:52 pm: President Ram Nath Kovind condemned the widespread violence that broke out in several parts of Haryana and Punjab by followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda and asked all people to maintain peace.

7:45 pm: A High-level meeting will be held at Home Minister’s residence on Saturday to control the situation in Haryana. Home Secretary & others senior officials will also be present, said MHA Sources

7:35 pm: Delhi Commissioner of Police appeals to all to maintain peace & order. A brief meeting about law and order in Delhi was soon held after the verdict. Delhi Police is on full alert and strict action will be taken against miscreants for any violation, said the DCP.

7:30 pm: Congress President Sonia Gandhi has expressed grave concern and shock at the unabated violence in Panchkula and other parts of Haryana resulting in the death of over two dozen persons including children, wide spread destruction of public property and senseless attack on the media. Gandhi appealed to everyone to maintain peace and harmony. She has spoken to the Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and has asked the Govt of Haryana and U T Chandigarh to ensure safety and security of all citizens .

7:20 pm: Following the intense violence in Panchkula almost 250 trains have been cancelled. ” All trains going towards Rohtak cancelled for tomorrow, ” said Neeraj Sharma, CPRO, Northern Railway.

7:15 pm: Additional Chief Secretary Ram Niwas has assured compensation for the losses of media and other properties by the state government. He further added that strict action would be taken against the protesters as there are video footages to identify them. Ram Niwas also urged Dera supporters to stay calm & deter the protesters.

7:10 pm: Following the rampant violence in Panchkula, section 144 has also been imposed in Noida and Ghaziabad regions, reports ANI. DG CISF OP Singh has sent alerts to all officers posted at Delhi Metro stations.

7:05 pm: At least eight persons have been arrested in Bathinda f or causing violence at various places in the district. Masked motorcyclists tried to burn the petrol machines in Bannawali village of MansaFour villages in former CM Parkash Singh Badal’s constituency were targeted where damage had been reported at Sewa Kendras, Telephone exchange.

6:55 pm: And this is an Associated Press photo of a press OB van being toppled by supporters of Ram Rahim Singh after his conviction in a rape case.

Dera Sacha Sauda sect members overturn an OB van on the streets of Panchkula. (AP Photo)

6:45 pm: This is a photo from Mansa near the Income Tax office where a car was set on fire allegedly by dera supporters.

(Express photo by Gurmeet Singh)

6:31 pm: Dera comes out with its first official statement after the conviction – It says they have been wronged and that they will appeal in a higher court.

Meanwhile, at least 1000 Dera supporters have been detained in Panchkula.

6:30 pm: Have you seen pictures of the clashes in Panchkula? See them here.

6:20 pm: ANI is reporting that death toll has jumped to 17 now with over 200 injured in the clashes. However, indianexpress.com has not been able to confirm the 17 deaths. If adequate security arrangements were made, such precious lives wouldn’t have been lost. There’s a lot of demand for the resignation of Haryana CM ML Khattar on social media.

If adequate security arrangements were made, such precious lives wouldn’t have been lost. There’s a lot of demand for the resignation of Haryana CM ML Khattar on social media.

6:15 pm: The National Conference working president Omar Abdullah has called for removal of Haryana CM ML Khattar for “gross dereliction of duty” in the wake of mounting death toll following the violence erupted by Dera Chief’s followers, reported PTI.

6:06 pm:  Losses incurred due to violence should be recovered from selling the properties of Godman Ram Rahim Singh, said the Punjab and Haryana High Court as quoted by ANI.

6:00 pm: According to ANI, death toll has reached 12 and over 100 people have been injured following the Dera violence in Panchkula. Security has been strengthened in and around Civil Hospital in Sector 6 Panchkula.

5:55 pm: Following the violence in Panchkula, aerial survey is being carried out using Drones & helicopters, reported ANI. Security has been tightened at the Delhi BJP HQ post violence at various places in Delhi after Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s conviction.

5:44 pm: Okay, so updates are coming in from various places where violence has been reported:

* Vehicles set on fire in Panchkula

* Income Tax office in Punjab’s Mansa set alight

* Bus set on fire in Loni near Ghaziabad by 2 persons

* Bus near Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial hospital set ablaze in Delhi

* Two buses set on fire near Nand Nagri in Delhi

5:45 pm: BIG UPDATE – PTI is reporting, via the CMO of the civil hospital in Panchkula, that 12 people have been killed in clashes.

5:30 pm: Reuters reporting that 13 people have been killed in clashes so far, although indianexpress.com cannot confirm that death toll.

5:25 pm: Videos now showing two empty train coaches of the Rewa Express at Delhi’s Anand Vihar railway station burnt allegedly by supporters of the Dera chief.

5:20 pm: Police say bus torched in northeast Delhi’s Loni Chowk allegedly by Dera Sacha Sauda supporters, PTI reporting. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has requested for peace in the area.

5:10 pm – BIG UPDATE: The death toll in the Panchkula clashes climbs to six now.

5:00 pm: Punjab and Haryana High Court said that they shall attach all the properties owned by Dera Sacha Sauda because the dera had given an undertaking in the court that its followers shall not damage any public or private properties and will not disrupt peace.

High Court has also asked the union government to send more paramilitary forces to Haryana. The state’s Advocate General Baldev Raj Mahajan was informed that the court has learnt that Haryana police were the first ones to run away from the spot where clashes erupted after dera chief was held guilty. The court asks AG to submit a detailed report on this alleged dereliction of duty by Haryana police, by tomorrow. High Court said that it shall keep monitoring the case constantly and can anytime take it up in the coming days. Punjab has also sought more paramilitary forces from the union government in this regard.

4:55 pm: Balluanna railway station in Punjab has now been set on fire. This is increasingly getting out of control. Reports of tear gas shells being fired in Sirsa, the headquarters of the Dera as well. Meanwhile, Haryana CM ML Khattar has called for an emergence cabinet meeting.

4:45 pm: PTI quotes doctor at civil hospital saying five people are dead in Panchkula violence.

4:40 pm: Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has just tweeted saying that he has spoken to Home Minister Rajnath Singh. “Would not allow anyone to disturb peace in Punjab,” he said.

4:35 pm: Three people including a woman have been taken in an ambulance to the hospital. All three were found lying motionless. The deaths have not been confirmed as yet.

4:30 pm: Reports of casualties coming in, but we cannot confirm anything right now.

4:25 pm: Delhi and Gurgaon have been put on high alert now. Uttar Pradesh has reportedly sealed the border with Haryana.

4:18 pm: Curfew has now been clamped in Panchkula as supporters have become restive in the wake of the court decision.

4:15 pm: If you are just joining us, there’s been heavy violence in Panchkula after Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda, was found guilty by CBI judge Jagdeep Singh. A minimum of seven years in jail is likely to be awarded to him. The quantum of punishment will be announced on Monday.

Followers of Rahim Singh, numbering in lakhs, following the news of his conviction broke down barricades, assaulted police and journalists and set media OB vans on fire. The police lobbed tear gas shells and fired gunshots in the air to quell the protesers. Curfew has been imposed in several districts of Punjab.

4: 12 pm: As being claimed by some sections of the media, Ram Rahim Singh is NOT in the custody of the Army. The Army has NOT YET been deployed in Panchkula.

4:10 pm: Agitated mobs are barging into government buildings in Sector 2 and 5 of Panchkula and vandalising buildings. Meanwhile, curfew has been extended to Punjab’s Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozepur, Muktsar, Malout and Budhlada

4:05 pm: Gunshots are now being fired in Panchkula. The scene there has become very chaotic. Violence, in case of a conviction, was expected.

4:00 pm: The judge said the prosecution has been able to prove beyond doubt that he is guilty. Ram Rahim Singh was accompanied by his daughter and he is being taken out of the court, likely to be taken to the jail in Rohtak.

3:55 pm: Curfew has been imposed in Malout and Mansa in Punjab.

3:50 pm: Followers of Ram Rahim Singh are trying to get as close as possible to the courtroom where he has been kept into custody. Cameramen and journalists are being beaten up badly by the followers and there is heavy stonepelting in Panchkula.

3:40 pm: Ok, there are reports of police vehicles being smashed and overturned. Gunshots and tear gas being fired in the air. A railway station has also been set on fire in Malout and private vehicles torched in Mansa in Punjab.

3:35 pm: NDTV reporting that its OB van has been vandalised near the court premises in Panchkula, allegedly by followers of Ram Rahim Singh.

3:30 pm: There are clashes being reported now in Panchkula and tear gas shells being fired by the police. Thousands of supporters of the Dera chief have descended upon Panchkula in anticipation of the verdict.

3: 15 pm: Dera Sacha Sauda chief taken into custody by Haryana police after being convicted in rape case. Reports suggest that the self-styled godman is to be taken to Rohtaik jail on chopper. Meanwhile, Dera followers are gathered at one spot and are observing silence after the verdict.

3:05 pm: Dera Sacha Sauda chief has been convicted in rape case by CBI court in Panchkula. The bench said that the quantum of sentence in the case will be announced on Monday.

2:55 pm: Reports say Judge Jagdeep Singh is currently reading out the verdict in the court.

2:50 pm: Power supply of the nearby regions in Panchkula has been disconnected, according to Hindustan Times, ahead of the verdict. Meanwhile, some reports indicate that the verdict will not be disclosed to public for about 45 to 60 minutes after it is read out in court. There is no confirmation on these reports yet. We will update you with the verdict as soon as we receive a confirmed report.

2:40 pm: According to reporters, followers of Dera Sacha Sauda are seen celebrating outside the court in Panchkula. According to reporters at the scene, the followers are saying that the verdict is declared and he has been cleared of the charges. We are unable to confirm any verdict yet.

2:30 pm: The hearing in the case has begun at CBI court in Panchkula, HT reported. The verdict will be declared shortly.

2:28 pm:  “We have made adequate arrangements for the post-verdict situation. Whatever is court’s verdict, we shall implement the court procedure. We are ready to deal with any kind of situation. I appeal to the people to maintain peace and harmony”, said Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar while issuing a public appeal just now as dera chief entered the CBI court complex in Panchkula.

2:22 pm: Here is a small reminder on the security outside the CBI court. The court complex that houses the CBI court is protected by three layers of security, with 150 personnel of Haryana Police and paramilitary forces guarding it over a radius of 200 m. Some reports say only two cars from his cavalcade will be allowed in the court premises.

2:18 pm: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh arrived at CBI court in Panchkula, where the verdict will be announced any time now. We will keep you updated with the verdict as soon as it is announced. Meanwhile, Punjab police has initiated a one-km curfew outside the premises of Patiala Palace, as the situation continues to get tense ahead of the verdict.

2:10 pm: The Dera Sacha Sauda chief will shortly reach the CBI court in Panchkula where the verdict will be soon be announced. According to reports that are coming in, Ram only two cars from the cavalcade will be allowed entry inside the court’s premises.

2:00 pm: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has arrived at Panchkula to appear before a special CBI court. The verdict in the rape case against the Dera Sacha Sauda Chief will be announced soon. The Dera Sacha Sauda chief was accompanied by a 200 car convoy. Below are earlier visuals of Ram Rahim Singh’s convoy as it passed through Kurukshetra district of Haryana, on its way to Panchkula. According to a report by HT, Ram Rahim stopped on the way at Kurukshetra to meet up with his followers.

1.50 pm: If you’re just joining us, here’s a quick update on what’s happening ahead of the CBI court’s verdict on the rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Ram Rahim left the sect’s headquarters in Sirsa at around 9 am this morning and will shortly arrive in court. There is heavy deployment of Army personnel in Panchkula, around the court and the CBI headquarters. Ahead of the verdict, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed personnel to use weapons and force if the situation gets out of hand — there are thousands of Dera supporters in the city, who are awaiting the judgment. The court will reconvene at 4 pm to take stock of the situation.

1.35 pm: Curfew has been imposed in a one kilometre radius around Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s residence, reports HT. Meanwhile, there are reports that Ram Rahim has reached the Panchkula court, although we can’t confirm this.

1.14 pm: There has been a decline in the number of patients at the Panchkula civil hospital over the last three days. “On August 22, the number of patients admitted to the emergency was 274. On August 23, the number was 194. The number of patients registered till Thursday evening was around 100,” an official from the hospital said. The decrease may be attributed to the police restrictions across the city, ahead of today’s verdict. Read more here.

1.09 pm: Security has been stepped up at gurdwaras in Haryana. At Nadha Sahib Gurudwara, as many as five police personnel are deployed at its entrance and are on alert.

12.49 pm: The AG has told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that media reports claiming the dera chief is travelling to Panchkula in a convoy of 800 vehicles is incorrect. “The convoy comprises five vehicles of dera chief and five-six of state police”, AG said. He was responding to a full bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Justice SS Saron, Justice Avneesh Jhingan and Justice Surya Kant, which was hearing a PIL this morning.

12.42 pm: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has said “forces should not hesitate to use weapons, if required”, while hearing a PIL on the situation in Panchkula. The bench of justices also directed the Haryana government to monitor the law and order situation and take immediate action against any political party or leader if there’s interference. Read More here

12.38 pm: Army columns are moving towards Panchkula, as more followers gather in the town ahead of the CBI court’s verdict against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. At the same time, personnel are surveying the city from helicopters, to maintain law and order.

12.32 pm: What is Dera Sacha Sauda? The spiritual sect was established by Mastaa Balochistani on 29 April 1948. The sect’s headquarters is located in Sirsa district of Haryana, but there are over 46 ashrams across the country. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, 50, is the head of spiritual sect. The Dera’s official website claims it has 60 million “faithful followers” worldwide. It has a massive following across Punjab, Haryana and other states, most of whom are Dalits.

12.10 pm: Former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda has appealed to the people to maintain peace. “Want to appeal to people of Haryana to maintain peace,” he was quoted as saying by ANI. Meanwhile, the Dera chief, after stopping to eat breakfast at Kaithal, is now on the road again. He is likely to stop in Kurukshetra next, reports Hindustan Times.

11.54 am: 89 trains in the Ambala division of the Northern Railway has been cancelled in light of security arrangements made ahead of the CBI court’s verdict on the rape case against Ram Rahim. Dinesh Kumar, Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Ambala division, told Chandigarh Newsline that no train would operate from 5 am to 5 pm between Chandigarh and Ambala on Friday.

Read: Travel operators in Chandigarh hike fares in view of prevailing situation

11.44 am: This is the third major police-public standoff in Haryana, under the BJP government led by CM Manohar Lal Khattar. The first confrontation was with the followers of godman Rampal in which six people were killed, and the second, during the Jat quota agitation, in which 30 people died. But, twice bitten, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar is not third-time shy.

11.36 am: Security around the CBI court in Panchkula has been beefed up, with three layers of security comprising 150 personnel of the Haryana Police and paramilitary forces. Security is also beefed up at the CBI zonal headquarters in Sector 30. CBI Judge Jagdeep Singh, who will pronounce the verdict, has been assigned additional security as well. Read more about the three-layer security ring thrown around CBI court.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Haryana lockdown, Panchkula, CBI court verdict, Dera Sacha Sauda news, Ram Rahim rape case verdict LIVE updates, Ram Rahim rape case, Ram Rahim verdict, India news, Indian Express Dera Sacha Sauda followers await the verdict near the court complex in Panchkula (Express Photo/Jasbir Malhi)

11.10 am: Who is Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh? Born in Sri Gurusar Modia village in Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar district, Gurmeet was raised by his father, a landlord. The 50-year-old, who is said to have always been spiritual, was picked out by Shah Satnam Singh, then head of the Dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa, when he was seven. In 1990, when he turned 23-years-old, Ram Rahim was chosen as Satnam Singh’s successor. He has completed high school and is married to Harjeet Kaur. They have three children, Charanpreet, Amanpreet and Jasmeet. They also adopted a girl later.

10.54 am: “There’s peace and everything is in place. Have faith in us, proceedings will take place peacefully,” DGP Haryana said ahead of the verdict, reported ANI.

10.42 am: The Indian Express explains why a court verdict has Punjab, Haryana on tenterhooks: “Both states, in which a large number of Dera followers reside, fear large-scale violence if the verdict goes against the Dera chief. Dera followers, who are called “premis”, have already gathered in their thousands in Panchkula, at the headquarters of the sect in Sirsa, and at its deras in Punjab and Haryana to express solidarity with Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in case of a conviction. The Dera has a massive base of followers across Punjab, Haryana and other states, most of whom are Dalits.” Read more here.

10.38 am: Dera followers have been reluctant to leave Panchkula, leaving personnel in a tight spot. Many of them have said they will leave the town only after having the sect head’s “darshan”. The city is in lockdown, as followers crowd parks, roads and any other available space.

10.31 am: The situation in Punjab and Haryana is being closely monitored by both governments under Chief Ministers Amarinder Singh and Manohar Lal Khattar. The Centre is also watching the situation, and is being regularly updated by the states. The Army was deployed in Sirsa and Panchkula this morning, a day after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured Khattar of the Centre’s support.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Haryana lockdown, Panchkula, CBI court verdict, Dera Sacha Sauda news, Ram Rahim rape case verdict LIVE updates, Ram Rahim rape case, Ram Rahim verdict, India news, Indian Express Police preparations at Sirsa ahead of the verdict in the case of Dera Sacha Sauda head. (Express Photo)

10.26 am: The Dera chief’s followers attempted to stop his convoy from leaving the sect headquarters at Sirsa this morning. Many of them were in tears, while several reportedly fainted as his convoy left the city. While on Thursday it remained uncertain as to how Ram Rahim would travel to Panchkula, with reports of him being airlifted, he is now enroute via road and likely to reach in three hours.

9.55 am: Ram Rahim left the sect headquarters at Sirsa at around 9 am this morning to appear before a special CBI court at Panchkula. Sirsa is 260 kilometres from Chandigarh. It will take him at least three hours to reach the court. The Dera chief has been assigned ‘Z’ category security, but is accompanied by his own security guards as well this morning. Speaking to PTI, Sirsa deputy commissioner Prabhjot Singh confirmed, “He has left Sirsa by road.”

9.44 am: Yesterday, a Dera spokesperson had claimed that nearly 5 lakh followers had arrived ahead of the verdict. Aditya Insa had said, “Five lakh followers have arrived in Dera. The sect has contributed in various fields to serve humanity.” Meanwhile, another spokesperson, Dilawar Insa had said the sect favours peace but fears some anti-social element may take advantage to “defame it”, reported PTI.

9.20 am: Ram Rahim has left for Panchkula, where the CBI court will deliver its verdict in the rape case against him, reports PTI.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Haryana lockdown, Panchkula, CBI court verdict, Dera Sacha Sauda news, Ram Rahim rape case verdict LIVE updates, Ram Rahim rape case, Ram Rahim verdict, India news, Indian Express Followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim gather at a park in Panchkula on Wednesday, ahead of the court judgment in a sexual exploitation case against him. (PTI Photo)

9.07 am: The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday had rapped the state government for its inaction in imposing Section 144, which disallows groups of more than 5 people to gather. The court had stated: ““We want preventive action and it is visible in none of the state’s orders. It is really disheartening. The same thing happened during the Jat agitation. You are encouraging them. Where is the order prohibiting the assembly of five and more? We asked you to get the order. These are the basic preventive measures even for a simple law and order problem. You then cry before the Centre on the gravity of the situation but who has created the gravity.” The court was hearing a PIL regarding the presence of thousands of Dera followers. Read: ‘Complete collusion, why let the crowd gather’

9.02 am: Ram Rahim had confirmed yesterday that he will appear before the CBI court today for the verdict. Despite the presence of personnel in Panchkula, Rahim’s travel by road from Sirsa will challenge the police are his followers are expected to throng the entire 250-km stretch of the state highway. Along this route, over 20 companies of paramilitary forces will be deployed. Read: Curfew on in Sirsa on night before Dera chief verdict

Taking to Twitter, Ram Rahim on Thursday said, “I have always respected the law. Even though I am having a backache, still abiding by law, I will go to court (tomorrow). I have full faith in God. Everyone should maintain peace.”

8.55 am: Following the trial, the complainant had alleged, “My life has changed after I gave the statement. I can’t move freely. There is danger to my life. I am also apprehensive about lives of my family members. Nothing can happen in the dera without permission of the ‘Baba’ because of his terror. I have heard that if somebody speaks against the Guru, he should be lynched. The followers take his preachings as message of God. The dera chief gives money to followers if they influence their relatives and others to join the dera”. Read more here.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Haryana lockdown, Panchkula, CBI court verdict, Dera Sacha Sauda news, Ram Rahim rape case verdict LIVE updates, Ram Rahim rape case, Ram Rahim verdict, India news, Indian Express Dera Sacha Sauda followers gather near Huda chowk in large numbers on Thursday. (Express Photo)

8.49 am: To recap the developments in the case: A case of sexual exploitation was registered against Ram Rahim in 2002, based on anonymous letters alleging the sect head had raped two women followers. The trial began in 2008. The CBI was able to track down the two sadhvis, who deposed in court. The verdict of this will be read today.

8.36 am: Tens of thousands of people have assembled in Panchkula ahead of the verdict, which is likely to be read at 2.45 pm. Over 15,000 paramilitary personnel are deployed in both Punjab and Haryana as a precautionary measure, while the local police are on high alert and watching the situation on ground and on social media. WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter are being monitored to ensure fake news is not circulated. The Centre has assured help to the two state governments.

8.30 am: Welcome to our live blog on a CBI court’s verdict on a rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

(With inputs from Varinder Bhatia, Sukhbir Siwach and Man Aman Chhina)

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