Seen as a convict under law, treated as a God by his millions of followers, courted by politicians and political parties, protected by the police with Z-plus security cover and targeted by Sikh radicals, Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, is as controversial as he is colourful. The sect chief, who turned 50 on the same day when the country marked 70 years of Independence, was convicted of rape by a CBI court in Panchkula on Friday, leading to some violence by his supporters. He has two shades to his personality as the head of the cash-rich Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) sect -- one of leader of social causes and another for controversies. He led an enigmatic life of ultra-luxury and pomp in public appearances
1) Followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh today pelted stones and broke barricades soon after his conviction in the rape case following which police lobbed tear gas shells and fired in the air. Some followers went berserk and also allegedly damaged OB vans of a private TV channel.
2) The CBI judge Jagdeep Singh while holding the 50-year-old Dera chief guilty of rape said the quantum of sentence will be pronounced on August 28, CBI counsel HPS Verma told reporters outside the court.
3) The sexual exploitation case was registered against the Dera chief in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court after anonymous letters were circulated about the alleged sexual exploitation of two 'sadhvis' (female followers) by Ram Rahim Singh.
4) The punishment can be a jail term not less than seven years but may even extend to life imprisonment.
5) Ram Rahim reached the court in Panchkula, a tiny satellite town of Chandigarh, over five hours after he left the sect-headquarters at Sirsa by road at about 9:am. Sirsa is about 260 km from Chandigarh.
5) Security personnel kept a strict vigil by erecting barricades on several places and are not allowing any vehicular movement towards the sect headquarters at Sirsa in Haryana.
6) A large number of Dera Sacha Sauda followers continued to stay put in Panchkula today giving a tough time to authorities. They ignored appeals from the administration and their sect head.
7) Haryana Police assisted by central forces launched a night-long operation to flush out scores of Dera followers gathered over the past four days in Panchkula, but the followers have largely refused to budge.
8) Haryana, Punjab and Union Territory Chandigarh went into lockdown since yesterday, shutting mobile Internet services, trains, schools, colleges and buses.
9) Army personnel and central paramilitary forces took positions around the CBI court complex in Panchkula, even as the area close to the complex was sealed.
10) As tension mounted, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed officers of the Haryana government to use weapons or force, if required, to tackle the situation arising out of the verdict
News24 Bureau/with inputs from PTI