Deadly protests trail Indian sect leader's rape conviction, 12 killed
A trail of death and destruction descended on Panchkula, Haryana in India after a self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted by a special CBI court in a rape case.
The violence and arson by the supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief broke out just outside the court premises and nearby areas where his supporters had gathered to hear the outcome of the court hearing.
Punjab and Haryana High court has ordered seizure of Ram Rahim’s properties to compensate the loss incurred by the violence triggered by his followers.
Followers of Ram Rahim, who had gathered in thousands over the past four days, went on a rampage, hurling stones, vandalising media vehicles and setting ablaze several vehicles.
At least 12 deaths were reported and the death toll is likely to go up.
Thick smoke billowed high in the sky as terrified local residents locked themselves inside their homes,” ABP Live News reported.
“My motorcycle has been burnt down. I had parked it near the road and gone nearby for some work,” said a young man working with a private company.
A steady stream of ambulances was bringing scores of injured people to the local civil hospital.
It was not clear if the injuries were due to police action or violence by Dera followers.
At least one person was seen lying motionless by the roadside.
Many women among the followers who had gathered gave a tough time to the police and paramilitary personnel.
Immediately after the CBI court convicted the Dera Sacha Sauda chief, many of his followers broke police barricades and security cordons.
At least three OB vans of private television channels were damaged. Two vans were overturned by a mob.
CBI judge Jagdeep Singh, while holding the 50-year-old Dera chief guilty of rape, said the quantum of sentence would be pronounced on August 28, CBI counsel HPS Verma told reporters outside the court.
Punjab and Haryana High court had come down heavily on the Haryana government for its apparent inability to maintain law and order in the state ahead of the CBI court verdict and pulled it up for not imposing Section 144 CrPC correctly to prevent the huge gathering of Dera followers in Panchkula.
The bench had asserted that the court did not want a repeat of situation similar to the one witnessed in February last year when violence during Jat reservation stir in Haryana claimed 30 lives and property worth hundreds of crores of rupees was damaged by arsonists.
The violence which was the third major incident after last year’s Jat agitation violence and November 2015 when there was a two-week tense standoff between some of the self-styled ‘godman’ Rampal’s followers and the police in Hisar during which five women and a child died.
Rampal was later arrested after tense standoff between some of his supporters and the police after close to 15,000 of his followers were evacuated from the sprawling premises.