Dera followers run amok in Punjab, Haryana; leave behind trail of destruction

Violence was reported from various places in Haryana and Punjab. Reports of unrest are also pouring in from Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan

Photo by Ravi Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Ravi Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Gajinder Singh

Rajesh Dutt Katyal had locked his house, located near the Panchkula court premises, and moved to his sister’s residence in Mohali on Thursday.

“Even if the court had acquitted Gurmeet Ram Rahim in the rape case, his supporters would still have caused mayhem in Panchkula. That was the talk everyone was whispering during the last few days when the Premis (followers) started gathering in various places. Am I glad to have moved out with my children?”

Katyal is not the only one. There are hundreds like him who had to flee from their homes and take shelter with friends and relatives to escape from the anarchy witnessed on the streets in Panchkula over the past few days. On Friday evening he is frantically seeking information on his house and his car that was parked outside.

Dera Sucha Sauda supporters ran amok in various parts of Punjab and Haryana after Gurmeet Ram Rahim was found guilty of raping two sadhvis in 2001 by the special CBI court.

In Panchkula and Sirsa where the Dera headquarter is located, journalists were attacked, some grievously. Vehicles, offices, hotels and shops were burnt after news filtered in of the conviction. While the godman was whisked away to Rohtak Police Training College on a helicopter, wherever the supporters went, they left a trail of destruction.

Thick smoke billowed high in the sky as terrified local residents unable to seek shelter in safer places, locked themselves inside their homes as scenes outside shook them.

A Haryana government officer revealed that before being flown to Rohtak, the godman was taken on a round of Panchkula on the helicopter and shown aerial evidence of the rampage his followers had caused.

The Haryana police had before the Punjab and Haryana High Court earlier today claimed total control over the situation and had given an undertaking that the situation would not be allowed to turn violent.

Violence was reported from various places in Haryana and Punjab. Reports of unrest are also pouring in from Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan.

The Army was called to assist the civil administration in Sirsa, where the Dera headquarter is located. Dera supporters took to the streets in Ambala and various other places in the state. The Army has been asked to stand by in all parts of Punjab and Haryana.

In Punjab, which has a substantial number of Dera supporters, curfew was clamped in Ferozepur, Bathinda and Mansa . Violence was also reported from Sangrur, Patiala, Mansa and Malout, Gidderbaha and Bathinda. In Malout, Dera supporters set the railway station on fire.

Reports of violence from both Punjab and Haryana continue to pour in from many parts. In Panchkula, unconfirmed reports gathered from sources put the death toll to 17. The figure is expected to rise with nearly 150 injured in the clashes.

Interestingly, a Punjab Police officer revealed that Dera Sachha Sauda was closely monitored by the police and intelligence agencies during the terrorism era in the state. It was considered a safe hideout of Khalistani terrorists.

Gurmeet was only 22 when his cousin, Gurjant Singh Rajasthani, who was chief of the Khalistan Commando Force, helped him take over as chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda in 1990 from Shah Satnam Singh. The Dera was founded by Mastana Balauchistani from Baluchistan in 1948.

Rajasthani was one of the most dreaded Khalistani militant. He helped his cousin capture the Dera from Shah Satnam Singh. Shah’s death continues to remain a mystery.

The Dera began involving itself in philanthropic activities only after Gurmeet got embroiled in the rape cases. It led the poor and the common man to flock to him in massive numbers.

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