The Army was on Thursday evening put on standby in Haryana and Punjab even as authorities ordered imposition of curfew in Sirsa town from 10 PM onwards, on the eve of a court verdict in a rape case against controversial self-styled godman Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.
Sirsa Deputy Commissioner Prabhjot Singh said that the curfew would remain imposed till further orders.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh told media here on Thursday evening that the Punjab government and police were fully prepared to deal with any situation emerging after the court verdict.
“We have made adequate deployment of police and para-military forces. The Army is on standby (if the situation demands). We are in touch with the Western Command and the south western command,” the Chief Minister said.
Haryana Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Ram Niwas, said that the Army has been alerted and would be requisitioned if the situation demanded.
He said that senior Haryana Police officers have been deputed along with civil administration officers to deal with any situation.
The tri-city area of Panchkula, Chandigarh and Mohali (in Punjab) were turned into a fortress, ahead of Friday’s judgment by CBI special court judge Jagdeep Singh.
The situation in Sirsa and Panchkula towns, both in Haryana, was tense on Thursday with thousands of sect followers converging at both places in support of the sect chief and announcing that they were ready for a “do or die” battle for their leader, and the security personnel being stationed in large numbers to maintain law and order.
Curfew-like restrictions have been imposed in Panchkula, Sirsa, Chandigarh and some other places, with educational institutions shut for two days (Thursday and Friday), trains cancelled and bus services disrupted. Authorities have suspended mobile internet services (including 2G, 3G, 4G, CDMA and GPRS) and all SMS services and all dongle services provided on mobile networks, except voice calls for the next three days, while shops in Panchkula and Sirsa have been shut and stadiums converted into temporary jail complexes.
A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court in Panchkula town in Haryana is to announce its verdict in the alleged rape and sexual exploitation of a ‘sadhvi’ (female religious follower) by the sect chief on Friday.
Haryana and Punjab, where the sect has millions of followers, was put on high alert on Thursday with thousands of security personnel stationed in sensitive areas.
The alleged rape and sexual exploitation, first reported through an anonymous letter in 2002 to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court here, has taken nearly 15 years to reach the verdict stage. The High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the matter.
The sect followers regard their chief, who has a colourful and controversial personality and has acted in and directed three movies, as a “messenger of god”.
Thousands of security personnel, including para-military forces, have been deployed to control the “premis” or sect followers at Panchkula, as they converged from across the region.