Over 50 people detained for Punjab, Haryana violence

Chandigarh, Feb 28 (IANS) Over 50 miscreants have been rounded up on charges of arson and rioting as tension prevailed in different parts of Punjab and Haryana, a day after supporters of the controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect went on a rampage to protest registration of another murder case against their spiritual leader Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.

‘We have rounded up 35 persons, who are accused of arson and rioting, from various parts of Punjab. Most of them are youngsters between the age-group of 18 to 25 years. Our investigation is on to ascertain the actual reason behind the provocation,’ a senior Punjab police official told IANS Sunday.

He said the overall situation is under control.

‘No fresh incidents of violence have been reported since 9 p.m. Saturday… also, there have been no casualties so far,’ he added.

The Haryana police, which rounded up over 15 youths, have called additional companies of para-military forces to maintain the law and order situation in the state.

‘Right now it is not appropriate to come to any conclusion as we are still questioning the youths. It could be the work of some anti-social group,’ a Haryana police official said.

Meanwhile, tension continued in violence-hit parts of the states and public transport remained off road during early hours Sunday.

Dera followers, known as ‘Premis’, went on rampage Saturday and burnt over a dozen rail coaches in various parts of Punjab and Haryana, thereby forcing the authorities to cancel some train services.

At least 40 buses were torched and public property was destroyed in Moga, Bathinda, Mansa, Barnala and Ferozepur towns of Punjab and Sirsa, Hisar, Kaithal and Fatehabad in Haryana.

The states have been put on high alert.

The sect chief was booked by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) earlier this week for the murder of former Dera manager Faqir Chand in 1991. Chand’s body was never found and the central agency conducted an inquiry into this matter on court orders.

Besides the sect chief, the CBI has booked four other members of the Dera for murder, destroying evidence and for hatching criminal conspiracy.

The sect chief is already facing three cases, two of murder conspiracy and one of rape of a female follower in a CBI special court in Ambala town of Haryana.

The Dera Sacha Sauda sect, which has a big following all over the country, is headquartered at Sirsa town in Haryana, around 275 km from here.

Dera officials have, however, condemned these incidents and said that they had no idea who was behind the violence across Punjab and Haryana.

‘We strongly condemn this violence and appeal to everyone to maintain peace and harmony in the region. No Dera follower is behind this arson and rioting. Once the police conduct their investigation, things will become clear as to who is responsible behind this chaos,’ sect spokesman Aditya Insaan told IANS.

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