Lockdown before Ram Rahim verdict; mobile internet, govt offices shut

Police security outside the Sirsa court complex from where Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim was to appear via videoconferencing before the special CBI court

"Mobile Internet and data services have been suspended for 72 hours in Punjab, Haryana and UT Chandigarh with immediate effect", Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh warned against any attempt to disrupt the state's law and order in view of the upcoming judgement by the Panchkula court.

"The High Court order is that they should be told they will have to go".

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Ahead of the expected verdict on Friday against Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmeet Ram Raheem, on rape charges of two women followers almost 15 years ago, the city of Chnadigarh and Panchkula are in a state of complete standstill.

In a bid to discourage more people from reaching Panchkula, Haryana Roadways stopped plying buses for two days bound for Chandigarh and Panchkula.

A number of the Dera followers have also reportedly occupied parks, roads and sidewalks in the city. A stadium at Chandigarh had been converted into a jail to accommodate his followers if they turn violent. Section 144 of the CrPC, banning the assembly of more than four persons in an area, has been imposed across the state. He has been accused by a former female follower of raping her a few times inside the sprawling Dera campus on the outskirts of Sirsa town, 260 km from Chandigarh.

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Schools and colleges in Panchkula and Chandigarh have been closed on Thursday and Friday as a precautionary measure. Ten senior IPS officers have been deployed and to ensure peace and help maintain law and order in the state.

The tension escalates outside the CBI court as it remands the self-appointed spiritual leader and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a 15-year-old sexual exploitation case.

A lawyer on Wednesday moved the High Court, seeking directions to Haryana to make adequate security arrangements ahead of the pronouncement of the verdict. In 2002 the rape case against the chief of Dera Sacha Sauda Gurmeet Ram Rahim was filed by two women. A curfew was imposed in the highly sensitive Sirsa town and three neighbouring villages today, officials said.

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The police top brass said this was the biggest deployment of security forces in the state in the past decade or so. He said the Western Command of the army was on standby to tackle any eventuality arising out of the judgment, expected on Friday afternoon. According to officials, interviews to be conducted by the state's service selection board on August 24 and 25 have been rescheduled.

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