“TAMATAR TOD do (pluck the tomatoes.)” That was the coded message chosen Dera Sacha Sauda followers in Bathinda were given to set off violence on the day the dera chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was convicted, a senior police officer said. In Sangrur, it was “Sabji tayyar hai, vartaoni hai (the veggies are ready, they have to served)” and “Labour tayyar hai, nihaan patnian han (the workers are ready, the foundation has to be dug).”
Punjab police say they have uncovered a conspiracy to unleash large-scale violence in Punjab on the day Ram Rahim was convicted with the arrest of all members of a “seven-member committee” of Dera followers formed earlier this year to deal with the court verdict.
“Apart from the state level committee, a five-member committee had been formed for district Bathinda and of those, we arrested four. We have also arrested one state-level committee member Baljinder Singh. On interrogation, they told us about the code ‘Tamatar tod do’. From every block, they had picked four-five persons to cause violence, and had also sent the same number from every block to Sirsa or Panchkula, “ said Naveen Singla, SSP, Bathinda.
Most of the followers who went to Sirsa or Panckula had been told there was going to be a satsang and free langar, and that Ram Rahim would be appearing personally before the followers.
“Unique code words were used by the heads to communicate. For Sangrur district, there was a team. The prominent ones in this team were Prithi Singh of Moga and Duni Chand of Sherpur village of Sangrur. Both are at large. We have arrested 24 persons so far in the violence incidents,” said Mandeep Singh Sidhu, SSP Sangrur. The seven-member state-level committee for Punjab had been appointed by the 45-member political wing of Dera Sacha Sauda. These seven members had asked Dera followers in each district to form district-level five-member committes, who then chose block level heads to pick four or five youngsters ready to do their bidding. The Punjab police registered 44 FIRs in connection with the violence in the state on and after August 25.
“In Mansa, word had been disseminated among the dera faithful well before August 25 to be ready for all eventualities,” said Parminder Singh Parmar, SSP, Mansa.
Major Singh, the alleged mastermind who supplied money for purchasing petrol, weapons etc has been arrested along with 24 others. “He was working as a cashier with the Dera Sacha Sauda in Mansa. We have lodged eight FIRs so far.”
Usha Rani, mother of 22-year-old Aman, who died in the violence in Panchkula, had said on Saturday that her son and five or six others were being summoned by the Dera level in charge in Arniwala block, Fazilka, every day for discussions all of August. “He had told us that his dead body would come back home if Baba was convicted. And that is exactly what happened.”
In Muktsar as well, block-level meetings were held on daily basis in August in which ‘task forces’ were readied for Panchkula and Muktsar, the police said. Two state-level members of the committee were arrested in Muktsar. A total of five FIRs were lodged against dera followers, said Sushil Kumar, SSP, Muktsar.