India beefs up security ahead of sentencing of controversial guru over rape charges
August 28th, 2017 at 12:05 pm
India beefs up security ahead of sentencing of controversial guru over rape charges

International desk – Indian authorities have beefed up security in some of its northern states ahead of the final sentencing of a controversial guru who was convicted of rape, officials said on Monday.

The followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went violent after a CBI court convicted him of rape in the city of Panchkula leaving nearly 40 people killed on Friday.

Members of the armed forces, paramilitary Border Security Force and other regular law enforcement agencies were put on alert to fend off any untoward incidents as the guru is scheduled to be sentenced finally on Monday.

The guru is expected to receive a prison term of at least seven years, according to a BBC report.

Curfew has been imposed in several areas of Haryana and Punjab states, while the capital Delhi is on alert.

The army has been put on standby and police say they have been given “shoot on sight” orders in case of trouble.

Singh, 50, will not be taken to court to hear his sentence. Instead, the judge who convicted him will be flown to Rohtak jail where he is being held, to deliver it.

The verdict is expected at 2:30pm local time.

Controversial leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, which claims to have 60 million followers around the world describe him as a messenger of the God.

The prison has been transformed into a fortress, with journalists banned within a 1.5km (one mile) radius.

Rohtak town, in Haryana state, is also under police and military lockdown, the roads lined with barbed-wire barricades.

There is also heavy security outside Singh’s 1,000-acre compound in Sirsa of Haryana.

Schools and colleges will remain closed. Mobile internet services were cut in Haryana Thursday, and the ban has been extended for a further 48 hours.

Tens of thousands of his supporters are still believed to be inside the Dera Sacha Sauda sect headquarters, despite many opting to leave following a tense stand-off with soldiers.

The Dera’s Sirsa headquarters is a huge township that houses schools, a hospital and a cinema. Hundreds of soldiers and riot police had blocked approaches to the sprawling premises on Saturday, and urged those inside to leave peacefully.

A curfew imposed in Sirsa was briefly lifted on Sunday to allow the guru’s loyalists to leave the compound.

In his monthly radio address on Sunday, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi said it was “natural to be worried” after days of violence which had briefly reached the capital, Delhi.

“Violence is not acceptable in the nation, in any form,” Modi said.

“Those who take law in their hands or take to violence will not be spared, whoever they are,” he warned.