- Enraged followers of godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on a rampage to protest his rape conviction
- The violence had left a trail of burnt vehicles, buildings and railway stations in Punjab and Haryana
- Security was also beefed up in parts of northern India, including New Delhi and Lucknow
The death toll rose to 32 in the violence that followed the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Over 500 were injured after violence erupted in Panchkula, Haryana.
Self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of rape charges on Friday, August 25, that were leveled against him back in 2002. Within two hours of his conviction by a CBI court, Ram Rahim’s followers went on a rampage that had left a trail of burnt vehicles, buildings and railway stations in Punjab and Haryana. Hospitals were overwhelmed with the stream of injured people being brought in.
Curfew has been imposed in various parts of Haryana and Punjab and has been extended to Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad. The Punjab and Haryana high court has asked the government to seize entire property of Dera to compensate the damages done by its followers. The High Court has asked a list of its properties from the Dera. It has been reported that 20 Army columns are on its way to lay siege on Ram Rahim's Dera in Sirsa.
Within two hours of his conviction by a CBI court, the violence had left a trail of burnt vehicles, buildings and railway stations in Punjab and Haryana. Hospitals were overwhelmed with the stream of injured people being brought in.
The injured included journalists and police personnel. Media reports put the number of injured at more than 500. Security was also beefed up in parts of northern India, including New Delhi and Lucknow.
The police fired in the air, lobbed tear gas and let loose water cannons on the protesters to quell the violence, which spread beyond Panchkula to many places in Haryana, Punjab and even Rajasthan.
A reporter of CNN News 18 TV said a steady stream of ambulances was bringing scores of injured people to the hospital, soaked in blood. He described the scene as "war zone." It was not clear if most of the injuries were due to police action or violence by Dera followers, which included a large number of women. "The flow of injured is not stopping," said the reporter in his dispatch, which also showed pictures of vehicles burning.
Ram Rahim is the chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda, a quasi- religious group, and was accused in 2002 of sexually exploiting two female followers. He was whisked away after the conviction and the sentencing will take place on Monday. He faces imprisonment of seven years to life imprisonment.
Although prohibitory orders were in place in Panchkula, it had little effect on the protesters, who also set fire to Malout and Balluanna railway stations in Punjab, according to the Northern Railways. Many motorcycles, cars and buildings, including an Income Tax building in Mansa in Punjab, were set on fire.
Six columns of Army, comprising a total of 500 to 600 soldiers were deployed in Panchkula. The situation was worsening in parts of Punjab, mainly in Malwa region, the stronghold of Dera Sacha Sauda. At least three OB vans of private television channels were damaged. Two vans were overturned by a mob.
The India Today Group's TV channel showed pictures of its correspondent and cameraman being attacked while they were travelling in a van in Sirsa, the Dera's headquarters. The camera captured images of the windshield and windows being struck by men with sticks.
The glass shattered and one of the occupants of the van was heard shouting. The video then showed his bloodied face. The police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells on sections of the crowds, many of them camping since last night on the streets of Panchkula.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:52 PM