The Haryana government today suspended the DCP of Panchkula over yesterday’s violence that erupted following the rape conviction of self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, as the situation in the state remained tense but under control.
The Army, meanwhile, said it has no immediate plan of entering Dera Sacha Sauda sect headquarters in Sirsa and that it is focusing on maintaining law and order, reacting to reports that it had entered the premises.
The death toll in the violence and arson by the frenzied followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of Dera Sacha Sauda, rose to 32 today with two more deaths reported from government-run Sirsa Civil Hospital.
“Two more deaths have occurred today. The death toll has increased to four,” said a hospital control room official in Sirsa. Panchkula, a suburb of Chandigarh and the epicentre of violence, accounted for 28 deaths.
Baldev Raj Mahajan, Haryana’s Advocate General, submitted before the Punjab and Haryana High Court that there have been “thirty-two casualties in the state of Haryana out of which 28 are in Panchkula”. The Union Home Ministry earlier in the day said the death toll was 31.
“It is submitted that out of twenty-eight dead bodies(in Panchkula) one has been identified. The remaining so far remained unidentified. Arrests of as many as 524 persons have been made in Panchkula, 24 vehicles have been seized, five pistols with 79 rounds; besides, 2 rifles with 52 rounds were recovered. Moreover, iron rods, dandas , hockey sticks and ten petrol bombs were also recovered.
“Eight FIRs have been registered in Panchkula. The details of FIRs registered at other places would be furnished,” Mahajan told the court during a special hearing.
The Haryana government alleged that a “defective” order by the Deputy Commissioner of Police(DCP) in Panchkula allowed the crowd build-up in the district, as it came under flak over not doing anything to check the violence by the Dera followers,
“Yes, there was a lapse and that why we have suspended DCP Panchkula,” Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said, adding that the prohibitory order issued by the officer only barred carrying of weapons and not a gathering of five or more persons.
An official order today said that IPS officer Ashok Kumar, DCP Panchkula, has been put under suspension with immediate effect.
The Army along with the police and paramilitary forces has put up barricades at entry points of the Dera premises in Sirsa, where tens of thousands of Dera followers, including women and childen, stayed put despite an appeal by authorities to leave.
“There is no plan so far to enter the Dera headquarters here. We are focusing on maintenance of law and order presently,” General Officer Commanding(GOC), 33 Armoured Division, Maj Gen Rajpal Punia told reporters in Sirsa, as the army made appeals on loudspeakers to the Dera followers to leave the complex.
Sirsa sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Paramjit Singh Chahal said the Army has not been given any order so far to enter the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters.
“There is still no order for the Army to enter the campus. They are only ensuring enforcement of curfew in the area,” Chahal said. “As per Panchkula Control Room in Haryana, the situation in Panchkula and Sirsa is very tense but under control,” a Union home ministry spokesperson said in Delhi. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chaired a high-level meeting in Delhi to review the security situation in the country, particularly Haryana, and was told that the situation in the state was under control, officials said.
Emerging from the high-level meeting, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said the director general of Haryana Police had assured the Central government that the situation was under control now. “Haryana, Punjab and Delhi have not seen many incidents today. Panchkula and Sirsa had a situation yesterday but now the situation has normalised,” he told reporters in Delhi.
A senior police officer said in Sirsa that law and order situation is under control as there has been no report of violence since last night. Haryana Chief Secretary D S Dhesi said that Ram Rahim’s ‘Z-plus’ security cover was withdrawn after his conviction in the 2002 rape case.
He also denied any special treatment being given to the Dera chief in a Rohtak jail after being held guilty in a 15- year-old rape case by a CBI court in Panchkula yesterday. “The moment he was arrested yesterday, his ‘Z plus’ security cover stood automatically withdrawn,” Dhesi told a press conference in Chandigarh.
“He is being treated as an ordinary prisoner. It was reported that he was being an air conditioner, there is nothing like that. As far as food is concerned, he is served the same food which other prisoners have,” he added.