Updated: August 25, 2017 4:19:51 pm
DESPITE prohibitory orders, over 1.5 lakh supporters of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh have gathered in Panchkula, triggering panic among local residents and leading to the closure of schools, colleges, shops and other businesses both here and in Chandigarh ahead of an expected verdict on Friday in a rape case against him.
About 10 companies of paramilitary force, comprising about 400 personnel, including women, have arrived in Chandigarh and deployed throughout Chandigarh on Wednesday. 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).
A joint flag march of paramilitary forces and Chandigarh police personnel was held from Industrial Area, Phase-1 to Daria, adjoining Chandigarh railway station. Meanwhile, over 6,000 personnel were deployed throughout Chandigarh to maintain law and order in view of the upcoming verdict in a rape case against the Dera chief. 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.
In Panchkula, six companies of paramilitary force have already arrived on Monday. The steadily swelling numbers of Dera followers arriving in Panchkula are giving even the administration and police officers the jitters and has left residents wondering why the authorities took no steps to prevent the build-up over the last few days.
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. “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 Sandhu.
Adding to the fears is the fact that the Dera followers, who had congregated at Sector 23 Naam Charcha Ghar through Tuesday, their numbers, building up to 50,000 by late last night, had all dispersed to various other locations in Panchkula overnight, evidently to pre-empt the police from coralling them all at one place and prevent them from moving out of there.
The followers are now scattered in internal sectors, parks and green belts of the city. Asked if the police could not have prevented such a large number from moving out of Sector 23, Sandhu said, “I agree it would have been easy to control at one place. Lekin hum zor zabardasti nahi kar sakte the… lathi charge kaise karden…chhote chhote bachhen hai…. The fact is that our court complex is totally safe.”
But, the residents are panicking as Dera followers spread out in the internal lanes of sectors and green belts in sectors 2,3,4,5, 6,7,8. 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.
Sector 7 RWA, too, has ordered the closure of all its 22 security gates, keeping open only one entry from the market side. S K Nayar, president of Citizens’ Welfare Association, said, “There is panic among the residents. As the followers have entered the residential area, there is fear that they might torch the vehicles or damage the property if the decision goes against them.” Assessing the movement of followers during the night, the Sector 8 RWA has ordered that all nine security gates be closed an hour before that is at 10 pm instead of 11 pm. The followers were seen sitting in Yavnika, Japanese garden and other green belts.
Traders mull keeping shops closed on judgment day
Fearing damage to shops on the lines of what happened during the Jat agitation, Panchkula Beopar Mandal has mulled keeping all shops closed on August 25. PBM President Kuldeep Chitkara said the traders were worried and a meeting of all presidents has been convened on Thursday to announce this decision. The followers are getting food supply from 40 places, including Rattewali, Bator, Barwala, Baltana and other areas in the region.
18 CCTV cameras installed on all routes leading to district court
The district police have installed additional 18 temporary CCTV cameras on all important routes leading to the district court complex. The cameras were attached to screens fitted at all nearby police stations. Sources said the decision was taken when it came to the light of senior officials that some of the CCTV cameras, installed long back, were not working properly. Sources said at a short notice, it was not possible to replace and rectify the dysfunctional cameras and officials preferred to install new cameras on temporary basis, which will be removed after the visit of the Dera head.
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