As the time draws near for the verdict on a 15-year-old rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, expected at 2.30 pm on Friday, the threat of a violent outbreak in Haryana has the state machinery on high alert.
Singh left his sect headquarters on Friday morning and headed for the CBI court in Haryana's Panchkula town accompanied by scores of cars full of his supporters.
"Even though my back is hurting, I will still go to court," the sect leader reportedly said on Friday.
The sect chief has been directed to appear personally in the court in a case pertaining to alleged rape and sexual exploitation of a former female disciple.
Around 200 vehicles are believed to be part of Singh's convoy en route to Panchkula. His followers reportedly cried and even fainted as the Dera chief left for the court. Some followers reportedly tried to stop his vehicle as they believe their leader should not have to go to court for the rape case verdict.
The Central Bureau of Investigation court will give its verdict on Friday afternoon. There was speculation earlier that the Dera chief would fly by helicopter from his Sirsa headquarters for the verdict.
He is likely to reach Panchkula in about four hours (260 km distance) by road. Singh enjoys Z-plus security cover from the Haryana Police.
Tension has prevailed in Haryana and Punjab in the past 72 hours in the build up to the verdict against the sect chief with thousands of his followers gathering in Panchkula, Sirsa and other places.
Ahead of the judgment, as many as 74 trains have been cancelled for today in view of law and order situation in Haryana. The United States Embassy and Consulates in India on Friday reportedly issued a safety advisory for its citizens, and the Haryana government declared Friday a holiday due to the tension in Panchkula. The Indian Army is believed to be on standby.
This takes the total number of cancelled trains to 201, including 92 Mail/Express and 109 Passenger trains. Mobile internet services were cancelled in Gurugram and Faridabad on Thursday but made active later.
The possibility of an outbreak of violence in Haryana has also affected the cost of air travel. Reportedly, the fare from Delhi to Chandigarh has risen up to as much as Rs. 11,000.
Meanwhile, Ram Rahim has asked his supporters, who have been camping in Panchkula, to return to their homes and maintain peace.
The Dera Sacha Sauda chief released a video message asking his supporters, camping in Panchkula, to go back home. He also asked his supporters to respect the law and maintain peace.
"I appeal to everyone to maintain peace. I had earlier also asked the Dera followers, who have gone to Panchkula, to return to their home. I will go to court. We all should respect law and maintain peace," he said in the video message.
Earlier on Thursday Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and assured him of adequate forces for security.
Around 53 companies of the paramilitary forces and 50,000 personnel of the Haryana Police have also been deployed. In addition, the Army has also been alerted. The administration has been also asked to take a stringent action if anyone tries to break the law.
(with agency inputs)
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