ROHTAK, HARYANA: A Haryana judge will today sentence self-styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who has been found guilty of raping two women followers. Judge Jagdeep Singh arrived on a government helicopter a short while ago at the Rohtak prison where Ram Rahim is being held and is hearing arguments there. Thousands of soldiers are guarding the prison. The army is on stand by and can enter the town, if needed, in about an hour, said military sources. Over a lakh of Ram Rahim’s followers had gathered in Panchkula, where the judge delivered his verdict in the rape case on Friday, and they erupted in violence that left 38 people dead and over 200 injured. No supporters have been allowed near the Rohtak prison and into the city, the police have said.
Here are the 10 latest developments in this big story:
1.Ram Rahim, 50, faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect was flown out of Panchkula in a helicopter after his conviction as his followers broke into rioting and arson. To prevent a repeat, the judge is delivering the sentence at the Rohtak prison today.
2.Thousands of paramilitary troops and anti-riot police have blocked off all roads in the area. Large gatherings are banned in Rohtak. Mobile internet services remain suspended. All schools and colleges in Haryana are closed.
3.Barbed-wire barriers have been erected and residents have been warned to stay indoors in Rohtak. Senior members of Ram Rahim’s Dera Sacha Sauda sect were placed under detention as a precautionary measure.
4.The Rohtak police has warned that it may shoot at any sign of trouble, three days after violence and rioting by supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda claimed 38 lives.
5.”We have made multi-layered arrangements so that nobody is able to reach the venue (prison) or enter Rohtak district itself,” police deputy inspector general Navdeep Singh Virk told NDTV. “I am fully confident everything will go on peacefully and there will be no untoward incident.”
6.Over 1,50,000 members of Ram Rahim’s Dera Sacha Sauda had gathered in Panchkula in a show of support before Friday’s verdict. Violent protests followed across his power base in the Haryana, with police deploying tear gas and water cannons, with little impact. It was clear the authorities grossly underestimated the risk posed by the army of Ram Rahim’s devotees.
7.Over the weekend, more than 100 branches of the sect have been sanitised and sealed across Haryana. Petrol cans and sticks were found stockpiled. The police in Sirsa, where his 1,000- acre main base is located, have been urging about 30,000 devotees to emerge from the campus.
8.A few thousand were persuaded to leave for their homes across the state in buses and those efforts will continue today, said top government officials to NDTV, denying reports that they will forcefully enter the campus to evacuate devotees.
9.Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned yesterday that “Violence is not acceptable in the nation, in any form.” But his party, the BJP, which governs Haryana, has come under heavy fire for failing to prevent the outbreak of violence and allowing the 50-year-old guru to travel in a luxury chopper to jail.
10.Followers of the flamboyant Ram Rahim, who is known as the “guru in bling” because of his penchant for bejeweled costumes and customised superbikes, continue to insist upon his innocence. “Our father can never do any sin,” said devotee Trilok Insaan at a shop in Sirsa, adorned with posters of a heavily-bearded Ram Rahim.