Chandigarh, August 23: All private and government schools in Panchkula have been asked to remain shut on August 24 and 25 ahead of the verdict in a rape case against self styled godman and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Over 50,000 Dera followers have gathered in Panchkula and the number is expected to go to over 1 lakh in the next two days. Punjab and Haryana have also been put on high alert ahead of the verdict.

A Special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Panchkula will pronounce its verdict on Friday, August 25, in the case which has been going on since 2007. The Dera chief has been accused by a former female follower of raping her more than once inside the sprawling Dera campus on the outskirts of Sirsa town in Haryana, 260 km from Chandigarh.

Thousands of followers who have gathered in Panchkula have reportedly said that they will hear the verdict and leave. Section 144 has been imposed in Punjab and Haryana. According to reports, the Chandigarh administration has decided to convert the Sector-16 cricket stadium into a temporary jail for a day to arrest people if they break the law. Some reports also say that the Dera followers in Panchkula are piling stocks of weapons with them.

Anti-social elements or any other person who would try to disturb law and order would be arrested, Additional Chief Secretary Ram Niwas said.

To maintain law and order, the Punjab government has received 75 companies of central forces to maintain law and order. Warning against any attempts to disrupt peace, Singh that his government would not allow any disruption of law and order at any count and directed the state police to thwart any attempt to destroy peace.

Heavy police deployment has been made in Bathinda, which shares its border with Sirsa, where the headquarters of Dera Sacha Sauda are located.