A notification has been issued to suspend mobile internet services in Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh as the situation has aggravated ahead of the verdict against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh rape case. Thousands of Dera followers have already gathered in Panchkula in show of support to Ram Rahim. Security has been beefed up with around 5,000 police personnel have been deployed in the city, as authorities are anticipating large-scale violence in case the verdict goes against Ram Rahim.
The Army has also been contacted by the state governments to ensure assistance in maintaining law and order. Schools and colleges in Panchkula were closed on Wednesday and are said to reopen on August 28. Suspension of mobile internet is also being considered in order to curb violence from spreading.
Here are the live updates on the situation in Punjab and Haryana ahead of the verdict
(Friday) 12.20 am: In a video message, Gurmeet Ram Rahim asks Dera followers to return to their homes and maintain peace.
10:00 pm: As per the directions of Haryana government, mobile internet services in Gurgaon and Faridabad is also restricted till Friday in wake of Dera Chief Ram Rahim singh’s rape case verdict.
7:30 pm: Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar of all help to deal with any situation in the state regarding the verdict of Ram Rahim rape case. The chief minister had briefed the home minister about the situation in Haryana.
5:10 pm: Punjab and Haryana high court pulled up Haryana government for not timely applying the right clauses of section 144. Why was assembly not prohibited, asked the Court? The court said these are basic preventive measures that could have been taken to avoid violence and uncontrollable situation that spooked up a day ahead of the verdict.
4:36 pm: Punjab Government has declared a holiday on August 25 for all offices, boards, corporations, agencies and public sector organizations ahead of the verdict against Dera Chief Ram Rahim rape case. Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) will also suspend 150 bus routes to neighbouring states from Thursday midnight till Friday.
4:32 pm: As many as 150 companies of paramilitary forces with more than 15,ooo personnel has been deployed in the two states to assist Haryana police in maintaining law and order in the state. Punjab and Haryana police forces are on high alert to deal with any law and order situation.
4:25 pm: The followers of Dera Chief Ram Rahim are simple and nice people, arrangements for their food and water is being done, said Haryana BJP Minister Ram Bilas. He further added that supporters were assured government’s help throughout and that the followers are social and religious people. “Dera followers never took law in their hands and they don’t become indisciplined,” said Ram Bilas to the Indian Express.
4:10 pm: Over 1.5 lakh followers have gathered in Panchkula in support of Dhera Chief Ram Rahim creating panic and violence in the state and nearby areas. Haryana DGP BS Sandhu told Chandigarh Newsline that it had been impossible to prevent the followers from the gathering in Panchkula. The administration has imposed Section 144 CrPC, but, said the DGP, the orders are specific to the movement of weapons only and not on the assembly of people.
3:45 pm: Haryana policemen stop a vehicle to check for supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect near Panchkula. The central government has assured all possible help to the two state governments to deal with any situation as a large number of followers of the Dera chief have already crowded in Panchkula, Chandigarh and nearby areas.
3:20 pm: As the situation is aggravating in Punjab and Haryana, the government will be setting up joint control rooms across the state to ensure better coordination. The bus services to Chandigarh has also been suspended, says Ram Niwas.
3:10 pm: The state government is video recording each event and putting drones for making surveillance. It will also call the army if needed, added Ram Niwas.
3:00 pm: Mobile internet services to remain suspended in Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh from Thursday evening for the next 72 hours, said Haryana Home Secretary Ram Niwas.
2:35 pm: The court said that it will order army if Centre does not do the needful. The Centre has assured the court that all steps would be taken to ensure law and order. It has also directed the IB to give inputs to state government.
2:32 pm: Punjab and Haryana High Court pulled up Haryana government saying they want to avoid the situation that happened during Jat agitation. The court has also directed the Centre to deploy additional forces and take strong steps.
2:25 pm: 22 trains have been cancelled ahead of the verdict tomorrow.
1:31 pm: Hospitals have also been put on alert for the next three days. The Haryana health department has reserved 100 beds and have also deputed additional at the Panchkula civil hospital. Apart from this, 30 ambulances have also been stationed in Panchkula. VK Bansal, civil surgeon, speaking to The Indian Express said, “We have made all the arrangements in Panchkula. We are geared up to tackle any situation. We have made a burn unit at the Emergency hall of the hospital. We have kept 40 stretchers and 20 wheelchairs reserved as well. The ambulance will be deployed as per the need.” The leaves of the health department staffs has also been cancelled in the wake of the verdict.
— ANI (@ANI) August 24, 2017
1:21 pm: The district police have also installed 18 CCTV cameras on all the important roads that lead towards district court complex. The temporary cameras are attached to a screen fitted at all nearby police stations.
1:17 pm: Fearing that the situation may turn volatile like it did during the Jat agitation, many owners in Panchkula are thinking of keeping all shops closed on the day of verdict. Kuldeep Chitkara, President of Panchkula Beopar Mandal said that the tranders are worried of damage to theikr shops and will come to a decision soon.
1:15 pm: Social media activity is being constantly monitored to ensure that no hateful messages are passed using them. The police is also keeping a close watch on the messages that can ignite violence.
1:11 pm: Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Ram Niwas urged the Dera Sacha Sauda followers to respect the court’s judgment to be announced on August 25 and help maintain law and order. “The word ‘Premi’ is associated with the names of Dera followers and they perform social service. It is hoped that the Dera followers would present a good example with the same spirit and help in maintaining peace and brotherhood in the state,” he said.
1:04 pm: For those of you who have just joined us, the states of Haryana and Punjab are put on high alert, ahead of the verdict in the rape case against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. The Dera chief is accused of raping his female followers. One of a Dera Sadhvi sent an anonymous letter to Atal Bihari Vajpayee accusing Ram Rahim of raping her and other Sadhvis.
Ram Rahim is also accused in the he murders of Dera follower Ranjit Singh (whose family alleges that he was killed on suspicion of involvement in the anonymous sadhvi’s letter) and journalist Ram Chander Chattrapati (who wrote extensively on “illegal activities” in the Dera). Read | Ram Rahim rape case: Why a court verdict has Punjab, Haryana on tenterhooks
12:56 pm: The police is keeping a close tab on the activities of Dera followers. Several police teams have carried out checks in various guesthouses, hotels, and lodges in and around these areas and told all the hotel owners to provide the identity of all their customers and visitors.
12:43 pm: Owing to a strong presence of his followers near the court area, question of how the Dera chief will come to the court has been giving sleepless nights to Haryana officials. A senior Haryana police officer, deputed in Panchkula, said, “His arrival plan is top secret. Only a couple of officers are in the loop on this. How the Dera head will enter the district court complex and how he will be escorted out is also not clear. Recently, Haryana DGP B S Sandhu, along with senior officers, was in Sirsa and the topic was discussed there. But, the outcome is yet to be shared with us.”
12:34 pm: Many of the Dera followers who arrived in the city from different parts of the country have been moving in and around , despite heavy police presence. They shifted to parks and roads close to the Tau Devi Lal Stadium – which is within a few kilometres of the trial court and even pitched a tent inside the park by late evening last night.
12:27 pm: Many of his followers are praying for a favorable verdict. “We are with Guru Ji, we have full faith in God that judgement will be in our favor,” one of his follower was quoted as saying by ANI.
Our Guru can never do wrong, we support him. We will remain calm until the verdict comes: Ram Rahim Singh’s follower in Panchkula pic.twitter.com/PrdMWdH5DM
— ANI (@ANI) August 24, 2017
12:25 pm: High alert has been issued in Ludhiana. “Appeal to people to maintain peace. Strict action will be taken against those who try to create trouble, ” G Singh, ACP of Ludhiana was quoted by ANI.
12:19 pm: Taking to Twitter, the Dera chief said that he has always respected the law and that he will be there in the court tomorrow. He has also requested everyone to maintain peace.
हमने सदा क़ानून का सम्मान किया है।हालाँकि हमारी back में दर्द है,फिर भी क़ानून की पालना करते हुए हम कोर्ट ज़रूर… https://t.co/KpTEsCSiUV
— Dr.GURMEET RAM RAHIM (@Gurmeetramrahim) August 24, 2017
12:17 pm: A sense of panic has crept among residents as the Dera followers are spreading out in the multiple sectors in the city. The residents welfare associations have decided to keep the security gates closed 24 hours or advance the closing timings. At Sector 6, which faces Sector 1, where the court complex is located, the RWA has ordered closure of gates throughout the day and night. “Only one gate has been kept open and that, too, the security guard will check the entry of visitors. They have been alerted about the Dera followers,” said Jeevan Aggarwal, president of RWA, Sector 6.
Ram Rahim Singh Rape Trial: On 25 & 26 August buses will not ply from bus depots in Bathinda, Budhlada, Sangrur & Barnala.
— ANI (@ANI) August 24, 2017
11:30 am: Section 144 has been imposed in parts of Punjab. Read | Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh rape case verdict: Section 144 imposed in all districts, Dera chief tweets message of ‘selfless service’
10:50 am: About 10 companies of paramilitary force, comprising about 400 personnel, including women, have arrived in Chandigarh. The companies include six each of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), two each of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). All the 18 DSPs, along with 17 SHOs and six IPSs, including Punjab DGP Tajender Singh Luthra and DIG Dr OP Mishra, will remain on duty for the next two days.
10:45 am: The state police are also in touch with Army to ensure assistance in case the need arises.
— ANI (@ANI) August 24, 2017
10:42 am: “How can we stop 1.5 lakh people from entering Panchkula? It is a district which doesn’t have one or two entry routes but multiple routes. They are entering Panchkula from Chandigarh, Punjab side and other areas,” said Haryana DGP BS Sandhu while speaking to The Indian Express.
10:35 am: Speaking to The Indian Express, Former DGP of UP Police, Prakash Singh said clear directions from the political establishment of the state must be given to handle the situation and police leadership should deal with a firm hand. “Groups of people coming to a place cannot be prevented unless they have declared their objective to be disruptive. Legally speaking, given the chaotic democracy we have, they cannot be prevented. But you can be certainly very firm with them and tell them that any lawless activity will not be tolerated and if it happens we are going to hammer you,” he said. Read | ‘Message should be no lawless activity will be tolerated else you will be hammered,’ says ex-UP DGP
10:30 am: However, Senior officials in Punjab and Chandigarh fear a repeat of the situation that developed in Jat agitation in February 2016. They have also expressed their surprise on Haryana Police having allowed a large influx of Dera followers. It is not necessary that the Dera followers will indulge in any untoward incident. But there may be anti-social elements who would take advantage of the situation and try to spark of violence,” a officer said.
10:20 am: In order to avoid any kind of the violence, sale of petrol in bottles or any container from petrol pumps as well as sale of acid has been banned in several districts of Punjab, including Bathinda, Muktsar, Faridkot, Ferozepur, Fazilka and Sangrur, till August 31.
10:07 am: The police, however, have got information that the Dera followers also called as premis have started storing petrol, diesel in drums at Naam Charcha Ghars. According to a letter issued by office of DGP (Law and Order), the followers have also stored sharp-edged weapons and stones on the roof of the congregation centre. “We are in touch with suppliers of petrol, diesel and other inflammable material and have asked them to inform us in case bulk purchases of such materials are made,” said Patiala Zone Inspector General A S Rai.
10:00 am: Dera followers have been assembling in large numbers at the sect’s Sector 23 based “Naam Charcha Ghar” in Panchkula ahead of the verdict. With the number of followers swelling in every hour, Chandigarh has already been declared ‘sensitive’, reports PTI. Speaking to The Indian Express, Rulda Singh, a Dera follower said, “Dera followers from Chandigarh, Nayagaon and nearby villages visit the Nam Charcha Ghar. Some followers have arrived in the last two days and staying here. We will do whatever the Dera management asks us to.” He also said the Dera management had ordered them to remain peaceful and they were following the instructions.
9:45 am: Faridkot has also been put on high alert ahead of the verdict
— ANI (@ANI) August 24, 2017
9:40 am: Police and para forces have been deployed near the routes leading to the district court complex in Panchkula to ensure that law and order situation is maintained.
9:30 am: The Dera sect chief is accused of raping a former female follower. The sadhvi wrote an anonymous letter to the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee accusing Ram Rahim of raping her more than once inside the Dera campus, located on the outskirts of Sirsa town in Haryana.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court directed CBI to conduct an inquiry. During the investigation, two Sadhvis accused the Dera Chief of rape. A chargesheet was filed against him by the CBI on July 30, 2007.