Curfew in five Punjab towns, violence in Haryana
Chandigarh: Violence erupted in several towns of Punjab and Haryana soon after a CBI special court on Friday held controversial godman Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of the rape and sexual exploitation two female disciples in 2002.
Security has been beefed up in Himachal Pradesh's Baddi and Parwanoo towns, which share a border with Haryana.
Attempts were made to burn two railways stations in Punjab's Malout and Mansa towns by agitated followers of the self-styled godman. An electricity office in Sangrur town was set on fire.
Reports said miscreants damaged and set on fire two Income Tax department vehicles in Mansa town.
Curfew has been imposed in five Punjab towns - Mansa, Bathinda, Patiala, Fazilka and Ferozepore, following large-scale violence.
In Sangrur district, miscreants set a tehsil office in Lehragaga town on fire. In Lambi town in Muktsar district, masked men lobbed petrol bombs on a telephone exchange and fired in the air to trigger panic.
After the verdict, traders in Haryana downed their shop shutters in most towns as a precautionary measure.
Security of Rohtak town, which saw widespread violence during the Jat agitation in February last year, was handed over to the CRPF.
In Panchkula town where the CBI court is located, the sect followers set afire and damaged more than 100 vehicles after the court verdict.
Journalists were assaulted by the Dera followers in Panchkula and Sirsa towns.
The sect chief was taken into custody following his conviction by trial court judge Jagdeep Singh. The sentencing is set for Monday.
Punjab Chief Amarinder Singh and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar appealed to the people to maintain calm.
Amarinder Singh told a news channel that there were some stray incidents of violence so far in the state. "Our forces are prepared to check any violence. The army did flag marches in Zirakpur and Banur," he said.
Punjab's Zirakpur and Banur towns are located near Panchkula.
The Haryana Chief Minister has called an emergency cabinet meeting to review the situation.