Law

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Sentencing: Rohtak Under Shutdown, Security Heightened in Haryana

A special CBI court will begin hearing arguments over sentencing at 2:30 pm in the district jail at Sunaria where the Dera Sacha Sauda chief is lodged.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Credit: PTI

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: With the sentencing of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh scheduled for today (August 28), Haryana and Punjab have shut down schools and colleges, suspended mobile services and increased security around a Rohtak jail, where punishment will be handed out to the Dera Sacha Sauda chief who on Friday was convicted of rape. Shamli and Baghpat in western Uttar Pradesh are on high alert, while heavy police force has been deployed at the Haryana border, Firstpost reported.

According to a Hindustan Times report, a special CBI court will begin hearing arguments at 2:30 pm in the district jail at Sunaria where Singh is lodged. The sections under which the case against the self-styled godman has been registered entails a minimum punishment of seven years and a maximum of life imprisonment. All access to the jail has been blocked and close to 3,000 paramilitary troops have been stationed, according to NDTV.

Rohtak deputy commissioner Atul Kumar confirmed to Hindustan Times that 18 columns of the army were on stand-by and warned that those who made an attempt to initiate violence would be shot dead. Violent clashes had erupted in parts of Punjab and Haryana on August 25 after a CBI court in Panchkula found Singh guilty of rape in a case that goes back to 1999, leaving 38 dead and 250 injured. While 32 died in Panchkula – where the case was heard and which became the epicentre of the violence – others died in Sirsa, where the Dera ashram is based.

Amid the heavy violence and loss of life and property, the Haryana government and chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar came under criticism for excessive police firing and over the lack of adequate action to clear Panchkula of Dera followers. Khattar, on his part, defended his administration’s response to the riots saying that such violence would have occurred even if the Singh’s supporters had been evicted.

Haryana DGP B.S. Sandhu, who on August 24 was pulled up by the high court in Panchkula for allowing Singh’s followers to gather in large numbers, had assured that barring a few vehicles in Singh’s convoy others would not be allowed to enter Panchkula or the court premises. However, on the day of the conviction, over one lakh people had reportedly gathered outside the Panchkula court. The high court had even warned Sandhu that action would be taken if there was a repeat of the February 2016 violence in the wake of the Jat quota agitation, which had resulted in the death of 30.

Addressing the Panchkula riots, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said, “Violence in the name of faith will not be tolerated and everyone will have to bow before the law.”