Rape-convicted godman unleashes Goonda Raj
Panchkula/ New Delhi: Flamboyant self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Friday convicted of rape by a court here, triggering widespread violence, burning, looting, arson and even molestation of women by the Dera Sacha Sauda head's men in Haryana. Thirty people were killed in Panchkula alone and over 250 were injured after which curfew was imposed at Panchkula and several other places.
Arson was also witnessed in Punjab, Rajasthan and the outskirts of Delhi within a few hours of the pronouncement of the judgement by a CBI court in Panchkula in the 2002 case. CBI judge Jagdeep Singh held 50-year-old Ram Rahim guilty of rape in a case which was registered on the basis of an anonymous written complaint in 2002 that he had sexually exploited two female followers. On the basis of the report, a case was registered against him in December 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Ram Rahim travelled to the court from Sirsa, about 260 kms from Chandigarh, in a huge convoy of vehicles which had his security guards and several followers. As the news spread and his thousands of supporters gathered near the Panchkula court went on the rampage, Ram Rahim was taken by a helicopter to a jail in Rohtak.
His followers, ironically called 'premis' (who believe in love), unleashed violence and set afire a large number of vehicles, buildings and railway stations in Panchkula, otherwise a peaceful city on the outskirts of Chandigarh, as well as in Sirsa, where the dera is based, and in Punjab. Media persons and assets were among the main targets of the mobs.
Police and paramilitary used force, including firing and lobbing teargas shells, to control the volatile situation created by the dera followers who had gathered in thousands defying the prohibitory orders like Section 144 of the CrPC, which bars assembly of more than four people at one place. "Seventeen people are dead and at least 200 are injured," said Vivek Bhadu, Chief Medical Officer at the civil hospital in Panchkula. He said most of the deaths were due to bullet injuries.
Another seven deaths were recorded at PGIMER hospital in Chandigarh and four at Government Medical College in Chandigarh, officials said. Two deaths were reported from Sirsa where seven were injured.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, under attack for alleged inaction, said on Friday night that some perpetrators of violence, including those "who opened fire", have been identified and will be arrested. At least 32 incidents of violence and arson were reported from Malwa region of Punjab, police said. However, no casualty was reported.