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'Why was the administration not better prepared?'

Last updated on: August 25, 2017 21:27 IST

'It was very clear that there would be violence if the verdict was not what they wanted.'
'Then why did they allow his followers to gather here in such huge numbers?' Sheenu Malik, who lives close to Panchkula, tells Rediff.com's Savera R Someshwar.

IMAGE: Dera Sacha Sauda followers attack a member of the media (in dark blue T-shirt), in Panchkula, August 25, 2017. Photograph: PTI Photo

"It's been a tense couple of days," says Sheenu Malik, 43, who lives on the outskirts of Chandigarh, barely 3 to 4 kilometres from Panchkula, where the verdict against Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who heads the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, in the rape case was announced on Friday afternoon.

"Over the last couple of days, the situation has been very tense here. Baba Ram Rahim's followers have been pouring in and, every time we stepped out of the house, we saw them everywhere, sitting on the pavements and wherever else they could find space," she says.

Ram Rahim's followers had a good support system, she says, and were prepared for any eventuality. "Food was being cooked on the roads and water tankers had been organised."

 

There was increased police presence as well, she says, and barricades had been set up.

The verdict, and its possible aftermath, had been the primary topic of conversation with her family and friends.

IMAGE: Vehicles burn in violence following Gurmeet Ram Rahim's conviction in Panchkula. Photograph: PTI Photo

On Friday morning, the television set was switched on and tuned into the news channels as Sheenu and her family waited for word on the verdict.

Soon after it was announced, she heard the sound of gunshots and could smell smoke in the air.

Her friends, who stay at Panchkula, called to tell her that Ram Rahim's followers were rioting and the police were firing tear gas shells.

Later, she says, she saw police helicopters throwing down what she assumed were tear gas shells.

"I don't understand why the administration was not better prepared. It was very clear that there would be violence if the verdict was not what they wanted. Then why did they allow his followers to gather here in such huge numbers?"

Panchkula, she says, has been under a lockdown on Friday.

As night fell, she says, the situation became a bit calmer, but she does not expect the violence to end soon.

Savera R Someshwar / Rediff.com
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