Dera violence: Punjab Police arrests one of main accused

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Sangrur (Pb), Sep 4: The Punjab Police today claimed to have arrested one of the main accused who allegedly triggered violence and arson in the state following the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Duni Chand, who had gone underground after the incidents of violence, was nabbed near village Gujjran in Sangrur by a police team, Sangrur SSP Mandeep Singh Sidhu said here. Also, a car, Rs 1.70 lakh in cash, red chilly powder and literature related to Dera Sacha Sauda were also recovered from his possession, he added. Police said that days ahead of the CBI court's verdict in rape cases against Ram Rahim Singh, an eight member "youth brigade" was formed to trigger violence in Punjab if the judgement goes against the Dera chief. During investigation, police came to know about the alleged conspiracy to spread arson and riots in Punjab following Dera chief's conviction. About 28 incidents of arson, damage to state, central government offices or properties in seven districts of the Malwa region were reported. The SSP said that Duni Chand, during interrogation laid bare the conspiracy, told police that one Rakesh Kumar, who was closely connected with the Dera, allegedly formed an eight member "youth brigade" called the "A -team" to set in violence in Punjab after the verdict of special CBI court in Panchkula went against Ram Rahim Singh. The members of the "A-team" were identified as Duni Chand, a resident of Sherpur in Sangrur, Major Singh of Mansa, Balwinder Singh of Bathinda, Prithi Chand of Baghapurana, Gurdev Singh of Bathinda, Mahinderpal Singh of Kotkapura, Gurdas Singh of Kotbhai in Bathinda and Gurjit Singh of Moga. Ravi Kumar, a resident of Muktsar, was the incharge of the team, Sidhu said. The SSP said that the first meeting of the "A-team" was held late night in Sirsa in Haryana on August 17 in which it was decided the government properties would be damaged if the court's decision goes against the Dera head. The eight-member team was further divided into two and all the members stayed connected with each other through phone, he said. Just few days ahead of the verdict, another meeting was held in Sirsa on August 20, the police said, adding that in this meeting it was decided that to people be mobilised to reach Panchkula. On August 23 and 24, two more meetings were held in order to trigger and spread violence in Punjab, the police said. According to the police, when Chand came to know that the police was looking for him for incidents of violence, he went underground and stayed in Budhlada, Barnala, Chandigarh and Jawalaji during August 26 till September 3, the police said. Sangrur police had assessed property damage to the tune to Rs 23.72 lakh in the violence in the district. The property damaged included power gird, telephone exchange and sewa Kendra, police said. A total of 14 cases have been registered and 59 accused arrested so far in connection with the violence by Dera followers in Sangrur, police said. A special CBI court in Panchkula had sentenced the Dera chief to 20-year imprisonment in the rape case on August 28. The 50-year-old Ram Rahim Singh is lodged in the Sunaria jail in Rohtak district.