Punjab, Haryana calm after Dera violence

Chandigarh, Feb 28 (IANS) Violence-hit parts of Punjab and Haryana were returning to normalcy Sunday, 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.

‘The situation is under our control and is totally peaceful in Bathinda, Moga and Ferozepur districts that were most affected by violence yesterday (Saturday). Heavy police force is deployed in these areas and continuous patrolling and search operation is on to find any anti-social element,’ Inspector General of Police Rohit Chaudhary told IANS Sunday.

‘There has been no casualty so far. People are also gradually coming back to their daily routine and public transport services have also resumed. But, still we are extra-vigilant and are keeping a close watch on all developments,’ he added.

Haryana Director General of Police (law and order) V.N. Rai told IANS: ‘The situation is totally peaceful and no untoward incident has been reported from any part of Haryana since last night. We have increased the police strength at all sensitive and vulnerable places.’

Earlier, police had rounded up over 50 miscreants on charges of arson and rioting in different parts of Punjab and Haryana.

‘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,’ said a senior Punjab police official.

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.

Dera followers, known as ‘Premis’, went on the 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 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, denied any role in Saturday’s violence.

‘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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