Security was tightened around the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters near Sirsa town on Wednesday following the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s approval to search and sanitise the sect premises.
The local administration and security forces are awaiting the arrival of retired District and Sessions Judge A.K.S. Pawar, who was appointed as the Court Commissioner on Tuesday to oversee the operation by the Haryana government.
The Dera is spread in two campuses, 600 acres and over 100 acres each, about eight km from Sirsa town (260 km from here).
Armed security personnel from the central paramilitary forces and Haryana police were stationed outside the sect premises. Bomb disposal and dog squads have also been stationed near the Sirsa headquarters.
The sprawling Dera headquarters houses a stadium, hospital, educational institutions, a resort, houses, markets, and other infrastructure. Huge bungalows of the sect chief (spread over nearly 100 acres) and his family members are also located inside.
Curfew in the area around the Dera premises was relaxed for one hour on Wednesday to enable people inside and outside the sect campus to buy essential items.
Haryana Director General of Police (DGP) B.S. Sandhu said the security forces were ready for the search and sanitising drill.
“There is complete peace in Haryana since August 25. There are 131 companies of paramilitary forces deployed in the state,” the DGP said.
Dera administration chairperson Vipassana, who is a close aide of the disgraced sect head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, told the media on Tuesday that the Dera management was fully prepared for the security operation.
“We are cooperating with the local administration. All weapons of the Dera and individuals inside (the premises) have been deposited with the authorities. We have nothing to hide. The premises can be searched anytime,” Vipassana said.
The Haryana government had sought the High Court’s indulgence to undertake the sanitisation drill, Haryana advocate general Baldev Raj Mahajan said.
Authorities in Haryana have carried out sanitisation of 117 ‘Naam Charcha Ghars’ associated with the Dera, where its followers assemble for prayers and discussions.
Weapons and other objects that could be used in violence were seized from the campuses, informed sources said.
“Some objectionable items were seized during searches at these premises following the arrest of the Dera chief,” Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said on Monday.
Hundreds of people and sect followers live permanently inside the mini-township of the Dera campus and work there.
Ram Rahim was convicted by a CBI special court in Panchkula on August 25 for the rape of two female disciples in 1999. His conviction led to wide spread violence within hours of the verdict in Panchkula and Sirsa in Haryana, leaving 38 people dead and 264 injured.
Isolated incidents of violence were also reported from Delhi and several other places in Punjab.
He was sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment on August 28.