As it happened: 30 dead, 250 injured as Dera chief conviction sets Haryana on fire

OB vans of news channels, set afire by Dera Sacha Sauda followers, burn near the court complex in Panchkula on August 25, 2017.   | Photo Credit: Akhilesh Kumar

Highlights
  • Dera terms verdict "unjust", says it would appeal
  • Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh lodged in make-shift jail in Rohtak
  • Dera sect will have to compensate for violence losses: High Court
  • Curfew in 10 Punjab districts; CM appeals for peace
  • Ghaziabad, Noida on high alert

Thousands of supporters of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is the head of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, went on the rampage, setting fire to vehicles, buildings and railway stations soon after a special CBI court convicted him in a 2002 rape case. Police responded by opening fire. The unrest which began in Panchkula where the verdict was handed down, spread to other parts of Haryana and Punjab and even New Delhi where a bus and train were set on fire.

A Dera Sacha Sauda supporter braves water cannon used by security personnel to disperse a violent mob in Panchkula on August 25, 2017.

A Dera Sacha Sauda supporter braves water cannon used by security personnel to disperse a violent mob in Panchkula on August 25, 2017.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Live updates:

1.05 am: Cong. slams violence, calls for CM’s resignation

The Congress called for the resignation of Haryana Chief Minister M. L. Khattar, with party president Sonia Gandhi expressing grave concerns over the violence in the State. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi stressed that violence and brutality had no place in society. “@PMOIndia must put the interest and safety of Indians before his party’s interests. @mlkhattar must resign,” the party said on Twitter. (PTI)

1.02 am: Smriti warns media against creating ‘panic’

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani through a tweet on Friday night warned television channels against creating ‘panic’ and ‘undue fear’ even as the unrest continued in Haryana and Punjab. Minutes after her stern message, she tweeted, “Attack on media, damage to property condemnable. Appeal to all to maintain peace.”

(26/08/2017) 01.00 am: Khattar admits to lapses in handling of situation

Under fire over the handling of the situation arising out of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s conviction, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Friday admitted that there were lapses but asserted appropriate action was being taken. Mr. Khattar ducked a question on how thousands of Dera followers managed to reach Panchkula despite Section 144 being imposed much earlier. Mr. Khattar also said the government would assess the damage. (PTI)

11.00 pm: Law & Order situation in U.P. until 10 p.m. on Friday: Section 144 has been imposed in 9 districts — Meerut, Saharanpur, Samli, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad, Noida, Bulandshahar, Baghpat and Hapur. The Law and Order situation is under control.

Law & Order situation in Rajasthan until 10 p.m. on Friday: As per information from the DGP office in Jaipur, Section 144 has been imposed in Hanumangarh District. Three to four unidentified persons have set the Bohra railway station’s Station Master’s Office on fire, in PS Simliya, Kota Gramin district. The Law and Order situation is under control.

9.55 pm: Curfew in 10 Punjab districts: According to information from the DGP office in Punjab, there is no report of death or injury in the region. Curfew has been imposed in 10 districts — Mansa, Bhatinda, Ferozepur, Faridkot, Malout (SMS), Fazilka, Patiyala, Barnala, Faridpur and Sangrur. Law and Order Situation is under control.

PTI adds:

CM appeals for peace

The Army was called out and curfew was imposed in 10 districts of Punjab’s Malwa region, home to a large number of Dera Sacha Sauda followers, as violence spread to the State.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who was personally monitoring the situation, appealed to the people to remain calm and not to take the law in their hands. The Chief Minister spoke to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley to apprise them of the situation. He also spoke to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the situation in Punjab and informed her of the steps taken by his government to maintain peace in the state.

Police have launched a major crackdown and arrested some supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda, including a member of its State-level committee, an official spokesperson said.

The Chief Minister said the decision to call out the Army was taken to prevent any loss of life or damage to public/ private property in the 10 districts. “The Army was staging flag-march in the curfew-bound areas of Punjab to restore the confidence of the people,” he said.

Army sources in Delhi said six columns of Army personnel were deployed in Panchkula and two columns in Sirsa in Haryana. They said one column of Army personnel was deployed in Punjab’s Mansa and another column in Mukhtsar in the State.

9.48 pm: Saddened by the loss of lives in violence, says Vice President Venkaiah Naidu. "Deep condolences to the bereaved families and wish the injured a speedy recovery," he added.

8.52 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi "strongly condemns" the violence.

He tweets "The instances of violence today are deeply distressing. I strongly condemn the violence & urge everyone to maintain peace. The law & order situation is being closely monitored. I reviewed the situation with the NSA & Home Secretary. Urged officials to work round the clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required."

8.40 pm: “Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been put in [special jail at] PTC Sunaria,” Rohtak Deputy Commissioner Atul Kumar told PTI, adding, tight security arrangements have been made.

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8.34 pm: The Superintendent of Police of Ghaziabad city in Uttar Pradesh said that the situation there is "100% normal."

"No incident related to Dera Sacha Sauda case in Ghaziabad city. One isolated incident in an empty bus in Loni Border police station. Teams have been formed to nab the accused. Force is deployed at Ashram, imp installations like metro stations, malls, bus and train stations and all officials from SSP onwards are on rounds and conducting flag marches," the SP said.  "Please help in countering rumours," he added.

8.07 pm: According to hospital officials, the current death toll in Panchkula is 30. About 250 people have been injured.

Meanwhile, prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Cr.P.C. have been imposed in Sriganganagar and Hanumangarh districts of northern Rajasthan.

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7.40 pm: President Ram Nath Kovind condemns the violence and damage to public property and appeals to all citizens to maintain peace. (PTI)

7.35 pm: Railways says all trains to Rohtak in Haryana have been cancelled. (PTI)

7.30 pm: Haryana DGP B.S. Sandhu, after visiting the civil hospital at Sector 6 in Panchkula, says over a thousand Dera followers have been taken into custody. “Dera followers have been flushed out of Panchkula while over a thousand have been taken into preventive custody,” Sandhu says, adding the situation is under control.

7.15 pm: The death toll has gone up to 28 and about 250 have been injured, PTI reports quoting officials. “Seventeen people are dead and at least 200 are injured,” says Vivek Bhadu, Chief Medical Officer at the civil hospital in Panchkula. Another seven deaths were recorded at PGIMER hospital in Chandigarh and four at Government Medical College in Chandigarh, officials say. Dr. Bhadu says that most of the deaths were due to bullet injuries.

7 pm: Dera Sacha Sauda terms verdict against chief "unjust", says it would appeal against it.

6.58 pm: Delhi administration moves in to contain violence. Delhi Lt. Governor Anil Baijal directs police commissioner to take effective measures to ensure protection of life, property. CISF DG O.P. Singh says Delhi Metro stations alerted and vigil has been intensified at stations along U.P., Haryana borders.

6.50 pm: Death toll from the violence rises to 17, reports PTI quoting a Haryana govt. official.

6.45 pm: One dead and five injured in clash with the police in Sirsa. The deceased is a Dera follower, officials said.  Army called out in Sirsa.

Dera Sacha Sauda supporters pelt stones at security personnel in violence following the conviction of sect leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, in Sirsa on August 25, 2017.

Dera Sacha Sauda supporters pelt stones at security personnel in violence following the conviction of sect leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, in Sirsa on August 25, 2017.   | Photo Credit: PTI

 

6.40 pm: Union Home Ministry official says the Ministry is checking reports of cases of self-immolation.

6.35 pm: Punjab and Haryana HC orders recovery of losses caused due to violence from Dera Sacha Sauda.

6.30 pm: Home Minister Rajnath Singh says he spoke to Haryana CM M.L. Khattar and Punjab CM Amarinder Singh. The CMs, he said, told him that they took adequate precautions to contain the violence. “Haryana and Punjab CMs have not sought more forces, they said they had taken adequate precautions," Mr. Singh said. He also said that no loss of human life and destruction of public property can compensated at any cost. Read more.

6:15 pm: The Home Ministry has said 13 people have lost their lives to the violence. Ten bodies are kept at PGI Chandigarh, while three are at GMCH, Chandigarh,  says Union Home Secretary, Rajiv Mehrishi.

6:00 pm: All India Radio says Patiala and Fazilka under curfew.

5.44 pm: Violence reaches Delhi with at least seven incidents of violence reported in the past couple of hours. Major among them was the torching of a train stationed at the railway yard at Anand Vihar railway station. Couple of bogies were set afire. Another major incident was a group of unidentified men burning a bus near Loni roundabout.

A firefighter inspects the charred interiors of a vandalised train coach in New Delhi on August 25, 2017.

A firefighter inspects the charred interiors of a vandalised train coach in New Delhi on August 25, 2017.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

5.43 pm: The death toll in Panchkula violence rises to 12, says CMO civil hospital.

5.42 pm: The Dera Sacha Sauda's headquarters is 15 kilometers away from Sirsa. Violence is slowly spreading to the city, while police has resorted to firing in air. A paper mill, milk plant, and a power sub-station have been attacked in Begu village, near Sirsa.

5.40 pm: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal urges people to maintain peace after the violence. Rajvardhan Singh Rathore says mobs attacking people, property and media personnel is highly reprehensible. - PTI

5.30 pm: Reports of violence by Dera followers are coming from Delhi as well. A bus was torched in northeast Delhi's Loni Chowk, police said. Television channels showed coaches of Rewa Express set afire at Delhi's Anand Vihar station.

5.25 pm: Home Minister Rajnath Singh likely to brief Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the ongoing violence in Punjab/Haryana.

5.15 pm: Ram Rahim Singh supporters set afire Malout and Balluanna railway stations in Punjab, says Nothern Railway. “Two stations have been affected and we are still getting inputs on the extent of damage. No injuries have been reported so far,” Northern Railway spokesperson Neeraj Sharma told PTI. The Northern Railway had cancelled 211 trains to and from Haryana since August 23 up to August 27.

5 pm: PTI quotes a news channel’s reporter that a steady stream of ambulances was bringing scores of injured people to the hospital, soaked in blood. The reporter described the scene as “chaos.” It was not clear if the injuries were due to police action or violence by Dera followers.

A Dera Sacha Sauda follower lies dead in violence that broke out in Panchkula after Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s conviction on August 25, 2017.

A Dera Sacha Sauda follower lies dead in violence that broke out in Panchkula after Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s conviction on August 25, 2017.   | Photo Credit: Akhilesh Kumar

 

4.55 pm: As violence continues in Panchkula, five bodies arrive at government hospital in Panchkula. Several vehicles and buildings set ablaze.

4:40 pm: Home Minister Rajnath Singh reaches North Block after landing from Kyrgyzstan to assess situation in Haryana. Mr. Singh spoke to the Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab, asking them about the situation and assured them assistance, if required.

Smoke billows after supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda set vehicles on fire near in Panchkula on August 25, 2017.

Smoke billows after supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda set vehicles on fire near in Panchkula on August 25, 2017.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

4:30 pm: All trains to and from Jammu were suspended on Friday over security concerns ahead of a CBI court’s verdict in a rape case involving Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in Haryana, reports IANS.

A railway official said here: “Due to the law and order situation in the neighbouring states, it has been decided to suspend rail services for the day.”

4:25 pm: Ram Rahim followers went berserk and damaged OB vans of a private TV channel. Police lobbed tear gas shells, used water canons and batons in an attempt to bring the situation under control.

Dera Sacha Sauda supporters overturn an outdoor broadcast van on the streets of Panchkula on August 25, 2017.

Dera Sacha Sauda supporters overturn an outdoor broadcast van on the streets of Panchkula on August 25, 2017.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

 

Dera Sacha Sauda supporters attack a member of the media (foreground wearing a blue dark t-shirt) in Panchkula on August 25, 2017.

Dera Sacha Sauda supporters attack a member of the media (foreground wearing a blue dark t-shirt) in Panchkula on August 25, 2017.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

4:15 pm: Home Ministry says they have sent 167 companies of central forces as per request of Haryana government.

Alert has been sounded in all adjoining districts of Uttar Pradesh to ensure no spill over of trouble.

4:05 pm: Reports of violence are coming from Mansa district of Punjab as well. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has appealed for calm.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, too, has appealed to the people of the State to maintain peace and not to take the law into their own hands. “Strict action will be taken against those who disturb the peace,” he warned.

4 pm: Local administration imposes curfew in Panchkula as situation turns violent, Home Secretary Ram Niwas says.

3:55 pm: Situation in Panchkula remains tense after Dera followers start pelting stones at vehicles. As the followers turned violent, security forces use tear gas and lathicharge to disperse crowd in Panchkula.

3.40 pm: Ram Rahim Singh is likely to be taken to Rohtak after his conviction.  The Police Training College rest house in Sunaria near Rohtak has been declared special jail. Singh is likely to be lodged there. 

Nahar Singh Cricket Stadium in Faridabad and Pundrak Sports Stadium in Karnal district have also been designated as "special jail."

3.05 pm: CBI court finds Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty. Quantum of sentencing will be announced on August 28.

2:30 pm: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar says irrespective of the verdict, the State government is fully prepared to deal with any situation.

2:10 pm: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is not new to the controversies. Besides the rape case, Mr. Singh also faces allegations of two murders, including that of a journalist, and had also courted controversy for dressing up as Guru Gobind Singh in 2007 leading to widespread protests in Punjab.

Read more
 

1.30 pm: Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh reaches Panchkula

12.55 pm: Punjab and Haryana High Court says administration should not hesitate to use force and weapons to maintain law and order.

12.30 pm: Prevailing tension in Panchkula eases a bit as few of the Dera Sacha Sauda followers start leaving the city after an appeal to return was made by Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh through a video. The security across the city though remains tight.

12.25 pm: Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed administration to ensure that situation stays in control, our correspondent Vikas Vasudeva reports from Panchkula.

The HC says police should not hesitate in filing FIRs against politicians or anyone else who get involved in creating law and order problem.

The bench will again sit at 3:30 PM to hear the case.

12:15 pm: Even as Ram Rahim had appealed to his followers to leave Panchkula, tens of thousands of followers are still staying put, waiting for the Dera chief, who is on his way to Panchkula to appear before special CBI court.

11.40 am: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's cavalcade has reportedly reached Kaithal, where his followers have stopped him from moving further.

11.30 am: Panchkula has virtually come to a standstill as security has been beefed up to maximum level, reports our correspondent Vikas Vasudeva from Panchkula. 25 columns of Army have reached Panchkula and would be pressed in case situation arises.

"How come despite section 144 order such a huge number of followers are on the roads? Both Haryana and Union government has taken a sympathetic view and is facilitating such a congregation," says Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury on Gurmeet Ram Rahim.

10.30 am: Army columns moved into Panchkula early on Friday as scores of Dera Sacha Sauda followers gathered in the town, reports PTI.

The Haryana Police assisted by central forces was involved in an operation to flush out scores of Dera followers even as 50-year-old Singh made a video appeal to his followers to return home.

“At the sect headquarters at Sirsa, police and paramilitary forces took out a flag march past midnight to enforce the curfew clamped at 10 PM (yesterday) for an indefinite period,” Sirsa SP Ashwin Shenvi said.

10.20 am: Intelligence inputs have suggested that the Delhi police keep an eye on an estimated 20,000 supporters of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim spread across close to a dozen locations in the Capital.

“A report on the subject has been shared with top Delhi police officials in addition to senior representatives of the Punjab and Haryana police; Mr. Rahim enjoys much support across several pockets located in Delhi as well as along its borders,” said an intelligence official.

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10.10 am: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has slammed the Haryana government for allowing Dera followers to enter Panchkula in large numbers despite prohibitory orders being clamped, questioning why Section 144 had not been imposed strictly.

An estimated over one lakh Dera followers including men, women and children have gathered in Panchkula, reports PTI. UT Chandigah police has warned of taking stern action against Dera followers if they make an attempt to enter Chandigarh.

10.00 am: Authorities tell PTI that they have sealed the road leading to the district court complex in Panchkula and nobody was being allowed on that route.

“We will not move out from Panchkula till the time we have pitaji’s (Ram Rahim) ‘darshan’ We will wait till the court verdict,” said an aged follower who had come from Bathinda in Punjab.

The Dera head is expected to reach Panchkula in the afternoon to remain present in the court before the verdict.

9.45 am: Shops, ATMs, cinema halls, petrol pumps, located near the Dera headquarters in Sirsa are closed, reports PTI.

Security personnel are keeping a strict vigil by erecting barricades on several places and are not allowing any vehicular movement towards the sect headquarters at Sirsa in Haryana.

A petrol pump around 300 metres from the Dera has been closed to avoid any untoward incident. Similarly, the shutters of several ATMs have been pulled down in the area.

9.30 am: Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh leaves for Panchkula where CBI court is set to deliver its verdict in rape case against him. The 50-year-old Dera head left the sect-headquarters at Sirsa, about 260 km from Chandigarh amid tight security.

“He has left Sirsa by road,” Sirsa Deputy Commissioner, Prabhjot Singh told PTI over phone.

The Dera chief, who enjoys ‘Z’ category security, is also being accompanied a number of his own security guards in a cavalcade.

It will take him around three hours to reach the court, a police official said.

Read more
 

9.15 am: Trains cancelled

In view of the situation, the Ministry of Railways decided to cancel several trains passing through Punjab and Haryana. An Indian Railways order said in wake of likely disturbance in law and order, a list of sensitive railway stations and sections have been identified.

The Haryana government has also set up a State riot control centre at the police headquarters in sector-6, Panchkula, which will be operational round-the-clock.

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9.00 am: Dera chief appeals to followers to leave Panchkula

Ahead of the verdict in the alleged rape case against him, the Sirsa based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim has appealed to his followers to leave Panchkula and return to their homes.

"I request all my followers who are in Panchkula to return to their homes and ensure that peace is maintained," Mr. Singh said through a video on Thursday night. "I'll appear in the court and myself hear the decision," he added.

8.30 am: The Home Department of Chandigarh UT has declared the cricket stadium in sector 16 a "temporary jail", to be used to confine people suspected of creating law and order problem.

Section 144 [which bars gathering of more than 4 persons at a place] has been imposed in all districts of Haryana, while the State government has requested the Centre to provide 115 companies of paramilitary forces.

Read more
 

8.15 am: While the CBI decided on August 25 as the day of judgement, there had been speculation over Ram Rahim's attending the proceedings. On Thursday, he put an end to the speculation, saying he would appear before the court despite a backache.

A tweet from the official handle of Gurmeet Ram Rahim said that ''we have always respected the law. Even though I am having a back ache, yet abiding by the law I'll go to the court.''

8.00 am: Security forces could be in for a tough day in case there is an adverse ruling. The police have barricaded many points in Panchkula to restrict entry of vehicles. However, large numbers of followers were seen walking in groups to reach their destination.

Several of them could be seen sitting and lying on the roadside around the Zirakpur-Kalka highway besides the city roads as well. Many followers have erected tents while some have taken shelter in parks.

Read more
 

7.30 am: Deputy Commissioner, Sirsa, Prabhjot Singh, announced imposition of curfew in parts of city falling under the jurisdiction of City police station and three villages namely Bajekan, Nejakhera and Shahpur Begu after 10 p.m on Thursday.

7.15 am: Several shops on the road leading to the Dera have been closed fearing backlash. “Though there are no directions from the administration, most of the shopkeepers chose to keep the shutters down anticipating danger. It could be almost a curfew like situation tomorrow [on Friday] morning,” said Vijay Sharma, an ice-cream vendor on Thursday.

7.00 am: On Thursday, with less than 24 hours to go for the verdict, Dera followers, including women, children and the elderly, trickled into its headquarters at Sirsa in groups all through the day.

The followers, known as Premis , could be seen on both sides of over a one-km-long stretch outside the Dera headquarters in the evening, sitting in the open in small groups discussing the possible outcome of the judgment on Friday.

(With inputs from agencies)

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