Devotees Weep And Faint, As Dera Chief Leaves In Huge Convoy

As Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh left in a 100-car convoy for a court in Panchkula for a verdict in a rape case against him, followers lined the roads of Sirsa, the Haryana town home to the sprawling headquarters of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect.

Some held sticks and shouted slogans in support of their chief as the car after car zoomed past them, raising dust. Police vehicles interspersed the SUVs of the Baba and his followers. The 50-year-old Dera chief has been given 'Z' category or one of the highest levels of security.

The town around 250 km from Chandigarh, which has been on lockdown over the past few days, fell silent after the roar of the cars died out.

Outside the Dera headquarters, many devotees - who call themselves premis -fell to the ground and wept. Some collapsed and fainted. A chorus of wailing filled the air and water and medicines were passed around.

Shops, ATMs, cinema halls and petrol pumps near Dera headquarters are shut.
The town is swarming with security and police personnel. The army was called in last night.
"I have not opened my shop today fearing that some people may harm my business," Gurvinder Singh who runs a grocery shop, said this morning.

A Dera spokesperson claims around five lakh followers have assembled outside the Dera ashram to show solidarity with their "Guruji", who has been accused of sexually exploiting two women devotees in 2002.

Earlier today, police carried out a flag march outside the Dera.

A curfew is in place in Sirsa and three neighbouring villages.

Mobile internet services were suspended for 72 hours in Haryana, Punjab, and their joint capital Chandigarh last night and the government is keeping a close watch on social media posts.

Last night, Gurmeet Ram Rahim put out a video appeal to his followers to maintain calm and peace




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