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Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s sentencing on Monday, Rohtak under blanket shutdown

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-08-2017 Shaswati Das

Panchkula (Haryana): Self-styled godman and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is set to be sentenced on Monday after being convicted of raping two disciples in a case dating back 15 years.

The sentence will be pronounced at 2:30pm at the Rohtak jail in Haryana, where he was flown after being convicted on Friday by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court. Singh is likely to face imprisonment of 7-10 years.

Meanwhile, the violence in Haryana—following Singh’s conviction—has claimed 36 lives. The army was brought into Rohtak and Sirsa, where the Dera has its headquarters, to control the situation.

On Sunday evening, Panchkula, Ambala and Rohtak were placed under a blanket shutdown on the eve of Singh’s sentencing. Schools, colleges and offices in the towns were instructed to remain shut on Monday.

According to the union home ministry, senior intelligence officers who conducted a survey of the riot-hit areas and assessed events leading up to the clashes, blamed Haryana police for failing to contain the violence.

On Friday evening, the Army’s Dogra regiment marched into Panchkula at 5pm and imposed a blanket shutdown, while shoot-at-sight orders were issued to all security forces.

“When the crowds went on a rampage, the Haryana police was the first to flee the scene. Had it not been for their incompetence, the situation would have been totally different. The torching of vehicles, assault of the media and the killings could have been avoided,” said a senior intelligence official in Panchkula, who did not wish to be identified.

While orders barring the assembly of five or more persons had been enforced in Panchkula, more than 100,000 Dera supporters had congregated around in Sector 2 and Sector 5 areas of Panchkula, as well as along the Kalka-Shimla highway.

“The crowds had been camping in Panchkula and the adjoining areas since 24 August and not one person had been evacuated by the police despite orders,” the official cited above added.

On Saturday, DCP (Panchkula) Ashok Kumar was placed under suspension. Panchkula’s Sector 5 police station now houses more than 200 Dera Sacha Sauda followers who were rounded up on Friday evening following the rioting.

The Haryana police said the situation is well under control.

“We did our best to quell the violence. The crowds embarked on stone pelting and widespread arson attacks and we tried our best to disperse them. Now they have been rounded up...and all arrangements are in place to ensure they don’t return even on Monday,” said Karambir Singh, station house officer of Panchkula Sector 5.

The central home ministry, the Intelligence Bureau and directors general of central paramilitary forces have also been closely monitoring the situation in Haryana in the run-up to the Ram Rahim sentencing on Monday.

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