Jailed guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's sprawling base in Haryana's Sirsa was raided today by teams of officials and policemen who went with hundreds of paramilitary troops, 50 videographers and more than a dozen locksmiths. Digging machines were taken inside to look for hidden tunnels.
- Searches in the 800-acre campus began this morning
- Bomb sqauds, commandos and fire trucks are on alert
- The mansion where Ram Rahim lived will also be searched
In the first two hours, a large amount of cash including plastic money, banned currency, hard discs and computers were seized and two rooms were sealed at the Dera Sacha Sauda sect's headquarters covering around 800 acres. Officials say five people have been rescued from the Dera, including two minors.
Bomb squads, commandos, ambulances and fire trucks are on alert for a court-ordered search led by former judge AKS Pawar, who has also taken along 70 witnesses.
Ram Rahim, the flamboyant "Guru of Bling" known for his outrageous costumes and "rockstar" lifestyle, was jailed for 20 years last week after he was convicted of raping two followers inside the Dera base.
The Dera campus is replete with symbols of Ram Rahim's extravagance and megalomania, with replicas of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Kremlin and Disney World created in a seven-star "MSG resort" and giant posters of the Dera chief everywhere. The campus includes an "international school", shops, a hospital, a stadium, houses and a cinema theatre that screens Ram Rahim's "MSG" franchise movies.
A pink building known to be Ram Rahim's notorious "Gufa (cave)" - the house where the women were raped - will be searched.
"The Dera premises is a very huge area and it will take time to complete the entire process," Haryana police chief BS Sandhu said.
There are multiple check-points near the Dera base and hundreds of paramilitary forces have been stationed in the Sirsa town to check any violence.
Besides the bomb squad, 40 SWAT commandos, central forces and a dog squad is on alert.
Large-scale violence broke out in Panchkula and Sirsa after the Ram Rahim was declared guilty of rape on August 25. The police say 38 people died in rioting by mobs of Dera supporters.
Since then, over 100 Namcharcha Ghars or convention halls of the Dera across Haryana have been searched and locked up. The police say weapons were found in some of the centres.
Dera spokesperson Vipassana Insan said: "The Dera has always followed the law. We appeal to followers to maintain peace."
Ram Rahim's closest aides Honeypreet Insan and Aditya Insan are being hunted by the police, who have carried out raids in Mumbai and areas near Nepal.
Honeypreet, who was last seen when she accompanied Ram Rahim in a government chopper to a jail in Rohtak, calls herself the "adopted daughter" of the Dera chief and "Papa's angel". She has been accused of conspiring to help Ram Rahim escape after his conviction.