- Guru to lakhs accused of rape, verdict tomorrow in Panchkula
- Haryana town filled with his supporters, fears of violence
- High Court says government's claims of precautions are exposed
At 2.30 pm, the local court will decide if the self-styled guru is guilty of raping two women followers 15 years ago. Through the week, the governments of Haryana and neighbouring Punjab have appealed to his sect - the Dera Sacha Sauda - to keep calm; every day, new measures have been introduced to prevent outsized congregations from erupting in violence.
Too late, said the Punjab and Haryana High Court, after it was informed through a Public Interest Litigation or PIL that over one lakh followers of Ram Rahim have already settled into Panchkula, many of them keen to see their guru, others bent on showing solidarity with him. Nearly 20 trains were cancelled today, bus services that pass through Panchkula were rolled back, and barricades set up to monitor the influx of arrivals.
The High Court warned it does not want "a situation similar to the Jat reservation stir", referring to riots early last year that saw Jats, a dominant caste, clashing over days with the police as they demanded affirmative action policies. Nearly 20 people were killed and at least 170 injured; highways were blocked, shops were set on fire, and offices vandalized including in Gurugram, the satellite city near Delhi that hosts fancy offices for multinational firms. The violence lasted a week.
The case of sexual exploitation dates to 2002 when two women followers were allegedly sexually exploited by him at his sprawling campus in Sirsa in Haryana. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The centre has offered assistance and paramilitary troops to the Haryana government.