Haryana has been put on alert ahead of Friday's court verdict in a sexual exploitation case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh with the state government on Wednesday saying it is not averse to seeking Army's help to maintain law and order.
The Centre has also assured all possible help to the Punjab and Haryana governments to deal with any situation.
"We are in regular touch with the governments of Punjab and Haryana. Whatever help is required, will be provided," a home ministry spokesperson said in Delhi.
In view of the verdict by the Central Bureau of Investigation court in Panchkula, the Haryana government has directed that Deputy Commissioners, Sub Divisional Officers (Civil) and other Haryana Civil Services officers would not avail leave till further orders.
All district administrations need to be in full strength, a spokesperson of the Haryana personnel department said, adding, "The leave, if already sanctioned, stands cancelled."
Haryana Health Department too has cancelled leave of all its medical and para-medical staff up to August 30.
Chandigarh situation 'sensitive'
Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, has been declared 'sensitive' and prohibitory orders clamped in the wake of arrival of Dera followers in large numbers in neighbouring Panchkula, a top police officer said.
Leaves of all policemen have been cancelled.
Asserting that nobody will be allowed to disturb law and order, Chandigarh Director General of Police Tejinder Singh Luthra said elaborate security arrangements have been made with over 5,000 security personnel being deployed at sensitive and vulnerable points to maintain peace.
One lakh premis (dera followers) have already arrived in Panchkula, he said, adding, "In the wake of this, the sensitivity of Chandigarh goes up. That is why we have mobilised large scale deployment of forces to maintain law and order."
To keep an eye on the situation, the police will conduct aerial surveillance with drones and conduct videography.
The government has also ordered closure of schools and colleges in Panchkula district on August 24 and 25 as a precautionary measure, Panchkula Deputy Commissioner Gauri Parashar Joshi told PTI.
The Haryana government has also notified that August 24 and 25 would be gazetted holidays in government offices.
Haryana-bound buses from Punjab regulated
While state-owned Punjab Roadways will not ply its buses towards Sirsa, where the headquarter of Dera is located, from Thursday, the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation will stop plying Haryana-bound buses on August 25 as a precautionary measure.
"As a precautionary measure, we have decided not to run bus towards Haryana from our three depots in Bathinda, Budhlada and Barnala on August 25," a PRTC official said.
This decision will impact almost 175 buses plying on different routes towards Haryana and some parts of Punjab, he said.
Notably, there is a large presence of Dera followers in Bathinda and Barnala districts and most of them use bus service from Bathinda, Budhlada and Barnala bus depots.
"Our buses will not ply towards Sirsa from tomorrow till August 25. We have also asked the officials concerned to take decision (on stopping or continuing bus service) considering the prevailing law and order situation," an official of Punjab Roadways said.
Punjab Roadways will not ply Haryana bound buses from its Muktsar, Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Bathinda depots, the official said adding it will impact 50 per cent of bus services from these depots.
Over 35,000 followers of the Dera are estimated to have already reached and many more are still arriving at the sect's Sector 23-based 'Naam Charcha Ghar' (congregation/prayer centre) in Panchkula to show their solidarity with Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who has been asked to appear in person in the special CBI court on Friday.
Panchkula Deputy Commissioner said the administration and police were keeping an eye on the situation to ensure that law and order is maintained.
Responding to reporter's questions, Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said, "The state government would also call in the Army, if necessary, impose curfew according to time and circumstances and initiate all steps required to maintain law and order in the state."
"It is a dynamic situation," he said, adding Haryana has got eight additional Companies of paramilitary forces and an additional 2,500 police personnel from internal sources have also been mobilised for deployment in different parts of the state.
Ten senior IPS officers would be deployed at critical and sensitive locations by the evening. Around 2,000 Home Guards have been called to to manage crowds and adequate arrangements have been made to deal with any situation in the state, he said.
Exhorting the Dera followers to keep faith in the judiciary and assist the administration in maintaining and law and order, he said the situation at Dera's 'Naam Charcha Ghar' in Panchkula was being constantly monitored.
Niwas said that carrying of any kind of stick or weapon has been prohibited at 'Naam Charcha Ghar' of Dera followers in the state.
Reports said that there was a large build up Dera followers in Panchkula and many more were still arriving.
In reply to a question, Niwas said directions had already been issued to all Deputy Commissioners and SPs to initiate preventive steps according to intelligence inputs being received.
On converting government buildings as temporary jails, he said this had been conveyed to the Director General, Prisons, and it is hoped that it would be notified by Thursday evening.
Prabhjot Singh the Deputy Commissioner of Sirsa, where the sect is headquartered, at a meeting of Municipal Councillors asked them to ensure the safety and security of religious institutions and government and other property in their respective wards.
He exhorted educational institutes, owners of shops, houses, petrol pumps and other commercial establishments in Sirsa district to ensure that CCTV cameras installed in their premises are in working order.
In case, any petrol pump owner is found selling petrol in open cans and bottles, administration will take strict action, Prabhjot said, adding that people can contact the DC and Superintendent of Police if they see anyone spreading rumours on social media.
There is heavy police and para forces deployment near the routes leading to the district court complex in Panchkula, where the lawyers have suspended work for three days from Wednesday to avoid inconvenience to the public visiting the courts.
Dera Sacha Sauda has always followed law: Spokesperson
When asked if Dera chief will appear before the court in Panchkula on Friday, a spokesperson of Dera Sacha Sauda said the sect and its head has always followed the law and will do so in future also.
When asked if Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh will appeal to his followers to help maintain law and order, he said, "During his Satsangs (in Sirsa) in mornings and evenings, Guru ji always talks about humanity and things which will benefit humanity."
Security forces in Haryana and Punjab have been taking out flag marches at many sensitive places. Haryana government has already clamped prohibitory orders in all its districts as a precautionary measure.
Police has set up barricades at several places in the two states, besides their common capital Chandigarh, where security has been further tightened ahead of the court verdict.
Amid reports that the Dera followers could stock petrol, lathis and other weapons at 'Naam Charcha Ghars', Punjab police has asked all its SSPs and other top ranking police officials to be alert against any such action.
Authorities in Haryana are making every effort to ensure foolproof security arrangements, with a senior official firmly saying they will not allow a repeat of things as witnessed in November 2015 when there was a two-week tense standoff between the self-styled 'godman' Rampal's followers and the police in Hisar during which five women and a child had died.
Rampal was later arrested and close to 15,000 of his followers were evacuated from his sprawling premises in Hisar.
While Haryana DGP B S Sandhu has already toured sensitive districts in the state including Sirsa, Fatehabad, Hisar and other places during the past few days, his Punjab counterpart Suresh Arora on Tuesday took a whirlwind tour of Bathinda, Mansa, Moga, Patiala, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib and Mohali districts, and checked the preparedness.
Heavy police forces have been deployed in Bathinda, which shares its border with Sirsa.
The Dera head has had a run-in in the past with Sikh radicals who had accused him of having allegedly dressed-up as the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh in 2007, following which Punjab had remained on boil for many days.
Chandigarh's Home department has declared the cricket stadium in Sector-16 as 'temporary jail' on August 25.
Officials said the 'temporary jail' can be used to confine people suspected of creating law and order problem on Friday.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has also held parleys with top police and administrative brass. The state government has requested the Centre to provide 115 companies of paramilitary forces.
Police along with paramilitary forces, SSB held flag marches at many places including Moga, Bathinda, Sangrur, Barnala, Patiala, Ludhaina, Panchkula, Sirsa, Fatehabad, Ambala and Hisar.
Punjab has already received 75 companies of central forces and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has warned against any attempts to disrupt the state's law and order situation in view of the upcoming judgment by a Panchkula court.
"All steps were being taken to ensure that law and order is not disturbed in any way in the wake of the court orders", Amarinder had said on Wednesday.
The sexual exploitation case was registered against the Dera chief in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court after anonymous letters were circulated about the alleged sexual exploitation of two 'Sadhvis' (female followers) by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
However, the Dera Chief has denied these charges.