Tribune News Service, Panchkula, August 25, http://tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/12-dead-panchkula-bears-the-brunt-as-violence-breaks-out-in-punjab-haryana/457311.htmlVehicles torched by Dera followers in Sector 5, Panchkula, on Friday. Tribune photo: Pradeep Tewari
Curfew in Panchkula, Ferozepur, Bathinda, Mansa; clashes with police, banks, govt offices attacked
A trail of death and destruction descended on Panchkula as soon as Sirsa Dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted by a special CBI court here in a rape case.Followers of Ram Rahim, who had gathered here in thousands over the past four days, went on a rampage, hurling stones, vandalising media vehicles and setting afire several vehicles, many among them two-wheelers.
At least 12 deaths were reported so far and the count is likely to go up.Thick smoke billowed high in the sky as terrified local residents locked themselves inside their homes as scenes outside shook even the toughest of the tough to the bone.“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 here gave a tough time to the police and paramilitary personnel.Immediately after the CBI court here 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.Friday’s violence which broke out here was 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 had died.Rampal had later been arrested after a tense standoff between some of his supporters and the police after close to 15,000 of his followers were evacuated from the sprawling premises.
With PTI LIVE UPDATES
*Five-star Hotel Holiday Inn in Sector 3, Income Tax office in Sector 2, and petrol pump in Sector 4 have been put on fire and completely destroyed. Panchkula’s skyline turned black*12 bodies have arrived at the Panchkula civil hospital
*One killed, four injured in police firing in Sirsa as Dera followers attempt to enter Sirsa town
*Dera followers target the media. An OB van set on fire and two others were damaged in Panchkula. A print media cameraman was hurt and his camera damaged. Security forces use teargas shells to disperse the mob in Sector 3 of Panchkula, which seemed out of control *Curfew imposed in Panchkula; petrol pump in Sector 4 and Income Tax office in Sector 2 targeted*In Punjab’s Mansa, two vehicles of Income Tax department were torched *In Ludhiana, police ask shopkeepers at the railway station and on Ferozepur Road to close shops *In Mansa, additional forces are rushed *In Ferozepur, DC/SSP meet Premis exhorting them to maintain peace *In Sangrur, miscreants set Lehragaga tehsil office on fire and try to set the fard kender on fire *Curfew clamped in Ferozepur, Mansa and Bathinda*Panchkula: Violent dera followers, who have outnumbered the cops on duty, have broken police cordon at Sectors 4-5 roundabout and have started marching towards the court complex in Sector 1. There are also reports of stone pelting by the mob and scuffles with the security forces and media. The cops on duty seem helpless even as the Army has taken over the law and order situation in Panchkula. Situation has turned highly volatile and the locals have locked themselves indoors, fearing violence.