Self-declared spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been found guilty of raping two women followers in 2002. He will be sentenced on Monday. Ram Rahim arrived in a 200-car cavalcade this afternoon in the town of Panchkula where a court had ordered him present for its ruling. Major towns in Punjab and Haryana are in lockdown - Panchkula, Chandigarh which is just 11 kms away, and Sirsa, where his sect, the Dera Sacha Sauda, is headquartered at a massive campus. Followers wept, some fainted, as they waited for the verdict, which has created a huge security nightmare in multiple towns including Panchkula. Ram Rahim had said he is not guilty of the charges against him.
- Panchkula is out of its depth in trying to handle over a lakh followers who have congregated in the small town. The army is on standby at the request of Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar.
- The Punjab and Haryana High Court has authorised security forces to use force, if needed; it has also warned against the use of provocative language. Later today, the court will review the administration's performance in handling a volatile situation.
- Yesterday, the High Court attacked the administration for failing to make adequate arrangements against the overwhelming presence of Ram Rahim devotees in Panchkula.
- In a video message at midnight, Ram Rahim appealed to his followers to disperse and return home, and urged them to keep calm. His request has not impacted his devotees in Panchkula from giving up their plan to see him and stand with him in solidarity.
- Several trains that travel through Punjab and Haryana have been cancelled. Government offices, schools and colleges are shut, and Panchkula is under curfew.
- Three stadiums have been prepared as makeshift jails or holding places if crowds turn violent
- Mobile internet services have been cancelled indefinitely in Haryana, though the city of Gurgaon, which hosts large offices of multinationals, is exempt.
- Ram Rahim is also known as the "Guru of Bling" on account of his taste in clothes and ornate jewellery. He has starred in two movies, Messenger of God (MSG) and its sequel, MSG2.
- He is being investigated by the CBI separately for encouraging the castration of 400 men at his ashram, he allegedly told them it would bring them closer to God.
- Through the week, the governments of Punjab and Haryana have called for peace and talked of introducing measures like security checks and curtailing bus and train services to stop thousands of followers from cascading into Chandigarh and Panchkula.