Punjab beefs up security ahead of Dera chief's sentence

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Though the Punjab government too is being blamed for "mismanaging" the situation before and after the verdict against the dera head, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday patted his government's back for faring better than the neighbouring Haryana.

The death toll in the violence that erupted in Haryana after the rape conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has climbed to 31, the Home Ministry said.

He said his government would not allow anyone to spread bad blood in Punjab and if needed, curfew would be reinforced in sensitive areas of the state on Monday. Forty-five of the total 250-odd people injured in that violence were from Punjab, he further disclosed, citing data received from Haryana so far. People of this country must respect judicial verdicts and not take the law into their hands. Responding to another question, Captain Amarinder said there had been no contact between him and the chief minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, though the Punjab DGP had been in regular touch with his counterpart there.

The tri-city area of Panchkula, Chandigarh and Mohali (in Punjab) were turned into a fortress, ahead of Friday's judgment by CBI special court judge Jagdeep Singh. He said state governments had full information about crowds pouring in and should have anticipated their likely reaction to the court verdict, but failed to handle the situation effectively.

The situation in Sirsa and Panchkula towns, both in Haryana, was tense on Thursday with thousands of sect followers converging at both places in support of the sect chief and announcing that they were ready for a "do or die" battle for their leader, and the security personnel being stationed in large numbers to maintain law and order. "I appeal to the people to keep calm and help maintain peace and brotherhood", she said.

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Interacting with mediapersons after a cabinet meeting here, the Chief Minister said that the Western Command of the Indian Army was on standby to tackle any eventuality arising out of the judgement, expected on Friday afternoon.

- Six private commandos of Ram Rahim Singh arrested by Chandigarh Police, weapons and petrol cans seized from them.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the State government should remain vigilant and ensure such incidents are not repeated.

The police, paramilitary forces and army personnel who deployed to keep the peace were clearly outnumbered and overwhelmed by the over 1.5 lakh supporters of Ram Rahim Singh, who had been allowed to gather and camp on the roads and parks in Panchkula.

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