An uneasy calm prevailed on Sunday in parts of Haryana and Punjab, hit by violence after the filing of a fresh murder case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Authorities tightened security and the Centre rushed 1,200 paramilitary personnel to the affected areas.
The police said at least 50 people were arrested in the two States and cases of arson, damaging public property and disturbing peace were filed against them. Prohibitory orders were clamped down in the worst-affected district of Sirsa, where the sect is based, and in Fatehbad, Jind and Hisar in Haryana.
Punjab Additional Director-General of Police (Law and Order) J.P. Birdi said the situation was peaceful and no untoward incident was reported. The Centre has asked the States to take severe action against those disrupting law and order.
“We have sent Central paramilitary forces, 12 companies to Punjab and Haryana to take care of the situation. Strict instructions have been given to the State governments to take severe action against those breaking law and order,” Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told journalists in Delhi.
He said Home Minister P. Chidambaram was aware of the developments. “We have also kept Prime Minister Manmohan Singh informed,” Mr. Pillai said.
Resenting the CBI’s filing of a murder case against Rahim Singh, sect supporters went on the rampage on Saturday setting ablaze four trains and around 37 vehicles, including 27 buses, and vandalised property in several places in Punjab and Haryana.
The sect chief, who held a religious congregation at Sirsa amid tight security on Sunday, claimed the case against him was false and that his followers were not involved in the violence as it is against their belief.
Last week, the CBI booked 42-year-old Rahim Singh for the murder of sect manager Faqir Chand in 1991. Besides the sect chief, four persons were booked in the case.
Rahim Singh also faces three other cases, including one of sexual exploitation and two of the murder of another sect manager and a Sirsa-based journalist.
Condemning the violence, the main Opposition Congress in Punjab demanded the resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the Home portfolio.
Mr. Badal, meanwhile, warned of strict action against those who violated the law. He said 90 rioters had already been rounded up, and that the DGP was supervising law and order arrangements.
“Let there be no confusion in anyone’s mind. No one will be allowed to get away with lawless acts. Peace and communal harmony will be maintained at all costs,” he said while addressing a gathering during the Holla Mohalla festivities at Anadpur Sahib.
“The situation is completely peaceful in Haryana. No untoward incident has been reported from anywhere so far today,” Haryana DGP (Law and Order) V.N. Rai said, adding that road and rail traffic in the State was as usual.
However, a few trains, including the Punjab Mail, the Sriganganagar-Haridwar express and the Bathinda Inter-City remained suspended on the Ferozepur-Ambala rail sections, a Northern Railways spokesman said.
The protesters on Saturday set on fire a compartment each of the Ferozepur-Ludhiana Sutlej Express, the Narwana-Kurukshetra train and two local trains after asking the passengers to disembark. They vandalised railway property at Tapa, Moga and Kalaiyat in Punjab, the spokesman said.
In Moga, the protesters tried to set ablaze the District Administration Complex housing, among others, the offices of the Deputy Commissioner and the Senior Superintendent of Police, prompting the police to fire in the air to disperse them.