Death and destruction descended on Panchkula, otherwise a peaceful city of Haryana, as soon as the self-styled godman, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was convicted by a special CBI court here in a rape case.
The violence and arson by supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief brought back chilling memories of last year when this city, on the outskirts of Chandigarh, witnessed an agitation by the Jats over reservation. The followers of Ram Rahim, who had gathered here in thousands over the past four days, went on the rampage, hurling stones, vandalising media vehicles and setting afire several two-wheelers.
Residents stay inside
Thick smoke billowed high in the sky as terrified local residents locked themselves inside their homes.
“My motorcycle has been burnt down. I had parked it near the road and gone nearby for some work,” said a young man working with a private company.
A steady stream of ambulances was bringing scores of injured people to the local civil hospital. It was not clear if the injuries were due to police action or violence by Dera followers.
At least one person was seen lying motionless by the roadside. Many women among the followers who had gathered here gave a tough time to the police and paramilitary personnel.
Immediately after the verdict, many of the Dera chief’s followers broke police barricades and security cordons.
At least three OB vans of private television channels were damaged. Two vans were overturned by a mob.
The Punjab and Haryana High court had come down heavily on the Haryana government for its apparent inability to maintain law and order in the State ahead of the CBI court verdict and pulled it up for not imposing Section 144 of Cr. PC in time to prevent the huge gathering of Dera followers in Panchkula.