Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab -- Manohar Lal Khattar and Captain (Retired) Amarinder Singh -- on 25 August issued separate appeals for maintenance of law and order and calm after followers of Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim went berserk with grief and anger over his conviction on an alleged rape charge.
Dera followers, including a large number of women started crying. Others attacked electronic media crew and damaged OB vans of a private TV channel, forcing the police to lob tear gas shells and use water cannons and batons to bring a violent and virulent situation under control.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim, was held guilty and charged with the offence of rape by a Special CBI Court of Panchkula.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh took to Twitter to say, "I appeal to all Punjabis to maintain peace and harmony in the state. We won't allow anyone to disturb the peace and tranquility of our state".
I appeal to all Punjabis to maintain peace and harmony in the state. We won't allow anyone to disturb the peace & tranquility of our state. pic.twitter.com/YlUeJH1mZk— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) August 25, 2017
Hours after the verdict was announced, three OB vans were set ablaze by protesters. At least ten people were injured and had to be shifted to a hospital in Sector 6 in Panchkula.
The Malout Railway Station and petrol pump was also been set on fire by protesters in Punjab Similar incidents were also reported from Bathinda.
Meanwhile, a camera person from AajTak was injured during the violent protests in Sirsa.
Speaking to ANI, Inspector General of Police Amitabh Singh Dhillon said, "Everything is perfectly under control, let us not sensationalize unnecessarily.
Soon after the announcement of the verdict, Ram Rahim was taken into custody by the Haryana Police.
National capital New Delhi and Bhatinda were placed on a state of high alert after Rahim's supporters resorted to violence.
The Dera Sacha Sauda, a spiritual sect was established by Mastaa Balochistani, on April 29, 1948, with its headquarters in Haryana's Sirsa district. It has over 46 ashrams across the country.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim has projected himself as a spiritual saint, philanthropist, versatile singer, sportsperson, film director, actor, besides other titles.
He is a recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Film Foundation Award for most popular actor, director and writer in 2016. He was also nominated for the Dronacharya Award by the Yoga Federation of India (YFI) for producing "World Champion Yogis". Ram Rahim has also started his "MSG" range of "swadeshi and "organic" products in 2015. His business is looked after by young followers of the sect, who live inside the Dera in Sirsa.
He was born in Sri Gurusar Modia village in Sri Ganganagar district in Rajasthan on August 15, 1967. He was the only child. His father was a landlord and worked at a farm. In his childhood, he helped his father in the farm.
According to his followers, Gurmeet was spiritual, even as a child. He was taken in by Shah Satnam Singh, the then head of the Dera Sacha Sauda, who anointed him as Ram Rahim.
In 1990, Satnam Singh invited his disciples from all over the country, where he announced the 23-year old Gurmeet Ram Rahim as his successor.
Since 2002, Ram Rahim has been named in several cases dealing with rape, murder and forced castration.
In 2002, an anonymous letter to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, alleged that the sect had sexually exploited two "sadhvis" and a case of sexual exploitation was registered against him. It was also alleged that Ram Rahim warned one of them not to talk about the incident, threatening her with his political influences in the state.
The Dera chief was also named in the murder of a journalist murder case dating back to 2002 and the forced castration of some sadhus in 2015.