Amid sporadic incidents of violence in some areas following the Ram Rahim case verdict, the Punjab government has called out the Army to help and maintain peace and communal harmony in 10 districts of the state over the next 24 hours, with preventive curfew being imposed in some sensitive areas in these districts.
The police have launched a major crackdown on trouble-makers and have arrested several supporters of Dera Sacha Sauda, including a member of its state-level committee.
The decision to call out the Army, which is staging flag march in the sensitive areas of these districts, in the Malwa region, was taken by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who also holds the Home portfolio, as violence in Panchkula spiraled out of control.
Amarinder, who is personally monitoring the situation, said the decision was aimed at preventing any loss of life or damage to public/private property in the districts of Sangrur, Barnala, SAS Nagar (Mohali), Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozepur, Fazilka, Faridkot, Sri Muktsar Sahib and Moga.
Preventive curfew had been imposed in six places, including Patiala, Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Ferozepur and Malout sub-division (Sri Muktsar Sahib district) of the State and night curfew was likely to be imposed in Moga, Baghapurana and Abohar towns.
Police patrolling has been intensified all over the State, especially on highways and major roads. On the directives of the Chief Minister, 11 senior police officers, including ADGP (1), IGP (4), DIG (3) and Commandants (3), have been deputed to supervise the various security measures over the next 24 hours, especially during the night, an official spokesperson disclosed.
Police have also arrested five Dera supporters involved in the attempt to set Balluana Railway station in Bathinda on fire. Two weapons have been recovered from them.
The spokesperson further revealed that Gurdev Singh, a member of the 45-member State-level committee of Dera Sacha Sauda, who was found instigating Dera followers to indulge in arson and violence, has been arrested by Bathinda police. Due to sustained police operations and pressure, many such Dera leaders and followers were expected to surrender before the police over the next 24 hours, said the spokesperson.
The State government is also involved in the major logistical exercise of providing a safe and smooth passage home to more than one lakh Dera followers, hailing from Punjab and Haryana, including women and children, by arranging suitable transport for to their home districts. The Chief Minister has ordered that more than 200 PRTC buses be arranged to ensure the transportation of the Dera supporters in a regulated manner.
Giving details of the developments in Punjab in the wake of the court verdict against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim, the spokesperson said there had been about 40, mostly minor, incidents. In all, there were 28 incidents of arson, besides damage to State/Central government offices/properties in seven districts of the Malwa region. The incidents of damage involved Railway stations (4: two in Bathinda, one each in Ferozepur and Sri Muktsar Sahib districts), Electricity Grid stations (6: one each in Mansa, Sangrur & Bathinda and three in Faridkot), Seva Kendras (9: four in Bathinda, 2 in Mansa, 2 in Barnala and 1 in Faridkot), Telephone exchanges (4: one each in Bathinda, Muktsar, Sangrur & Barnala), Petrol Pumps (4: two in Mansa and one each at Muktsar and Faridkot), Tehsil Office (Sangrur-1), smashing of window panes of Income Tax Office (Mansa district). Two incidents of road blockades were also reported from Dirba and Ghanauri, both in Sangrur district.
In addition, there was a minor incident of an attempt to set furniture on fire in a Government School in village Manakpur, Banur (Patiala district). Dera followers hit a Police vehicle in Dirba (district Sangrur); they were later arrested.