Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s ‘presence’ still looms at the Naam Charcha Ghar, Sector 23. The congregation centre in Panchkula for dera premis (followers) ahead of the verdict, the Naam Charcha Ghar, is a pit stop for followers who come to Panchkula for their trial on charges of involvement in the August 25 violence last year.
Around 12 noon, it is time for ‘seva’ for a set of women followers who chalk out chores for their shift. Some make chapatis, vegetables and dal for those expected to stay over to attend their court hearings on Thursday, others mop and clean.
“Hum to seva karne aate hain yahan. Roz do se teen ghante lagate hain. Pita ji [Dera chief] ne hi hume sikhaya ki seva karna hi dharam hai,” said a woman from the group who did not wish to give her name.
With messages of Happy Birthday, pictures of Ram Rahim are hung on the walls all over. “It was his birthday on August 15 and we all celebrated it. Pita ji is with us. His teachings, vision all are with us. We held a tree plantation and parshad was distributed to all on his birthday,” said caretaker Sadhu Ram.
The gate of the Naam Charcha Ghar remains locked from inside. It opens only to a familiar face.
The gate opened for a young boy, who entered and headed straight to the place where the Dera chief’s photo hung in the main hall and started chanting prayers.
“It is all politically motivated, you see. I have this life because of Pita ji, not just me but Pita ji has changed the lives of thousands of people,” Sadhu Ram added.
On Wednesday, eight people had come from Karnal, Kaithal, Hisar to attend the court hearing. Ration flows in through donations made by the followers.
A 55-year-old man, who had come from Karnal to attend the court hearing, told Chandigarh Newsline, “Does my age say that I can even torch a vehicle. But I have been falsely implicated in the case. Pita ji’s blessings are always with us.”
Simran – prayers – is held on Monday evenings for followers from Panchkula, Mohali and Chandigarh.
Soon after the Dera chief’s conviction, this Naam Charcha Ghar was sealed by the district administration. However, it was reopened about three months later.
“They had no orders to seal it. You know they had removed all the pictures and everything. We set up the whole thing again,” said Sadhu Ram.
The rioting and arson had started soon after Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted of raping two women. Later, he was sentenced to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment.
Damaged helipad: Tired of pursuing our claim: School
Ahead of the verdict against Ram Rahim last year, the local administration had feverishly prepared a helipad at a school close to the district court complex in preparation for the eventuality of transporting the Dera head by helicopter from his Sirsa headquarters.
In the process of making a helipad for the Dera chief, the authorities damaged some equipment, including baseball poles, jungle gym climbing frames, see-saws and cricket nets with poles of Jainendra Public School Sector 1 which was the nearest to the court complex. However, the helipad was not used as Ram Rahim arrived in his own motorcade and after the court proceedings, the government flew him out of Panchkula to Sunaria jail in Rohtak by chopper from the Western Command helipad at Chandimandir.
But before that the government had asked the Jainendra Public School, Sector 1, for its ground, the school agreed with a request that the sports equipment installed in the school ground should be removed carefully and kept aside for reinstallation later. However, the district administration sent a JCB machine to clear the ground. In the process, the equipment was removed in such a way that all of it got damaged. The ground was levelled and an H mark made for a helicopter.
The school management filed a claim for Rs 1.52 lakh but has been waiting for that. Former principal Sudha Babbar said, “We pursued with the government constantly. But, we were told that it is only after the case is decided by the court that any claim would be given. We are tired.”
Panchkula DC Mukul Kumar said, “The government had constituted a committee and it is in the process of providing claims to all those whose property was damaged in the violence.”
A committee was constituted which estimated that losses worth Rs 10.48 crore were suffered due to the damage to properties, private and government, in the Dera violence in Panchkula. The committee had submitted its report to the government.
Bank whose building was damaged relocated
Pallavi Hotel and a branch of HDFC Bank in Sector 16 suffered losses worth lakhs when protesters torched the buildings last year, leaving them extensively damaged. Fortunately, there was no one inside at the time.
While the hotel management has made renovations, the bank relocated to another place in Sector 16. The gutted office remains vacant.
Himanshu Aggarwal, CEO of Pallavi Hotel, said they have decided to convert the place into a cafe, with indoor games in the basement.
Subhash Papneja, General Secretary of Residents Welfare Association of Sector 16 Panchkula, said the furniture and other interiors of the showroom from where the bank was operating were gutted. “However, they shifted from here,” he said.
No claims for mediapersons
Days after Panchkula burnt, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced that all who had lost property would be provided compensation. But till date, no claim has been processed.
Barinder Singh Rawat, President of Chandigarh Press Club, said over 20 vehicles of journalists were torched but the government didn’t do anything. “Hard-earned money of people was involved but the government did not act,” he added.
56 vehicles of Dera chief’s cavalcade impounded, all released except two
As many as 56 vehicles – all luxury SUVs and one fire engine – were impounded from the Dera chief’s cavalcade. However, all except two have been released. The claimants of a Toyota Innova and one Maxi cab have not come forward yet.
Fortuner, Land Cruiser, Endeavour, Scorpios and Innova cars that had accompanied the Dera chief when he was brought to the CBI court here for the August 25 verdict were impounded. However, these were later released to respective owners. According to the police, the four-wheelers were released on the orders of the court.