Chandigarh, August 24: A Special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Panchkula will deliver its verdict on the rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on Friday, August 25. Thousands of Dera followers, who call themselves ‘premis’ have gathered in Panchkula ahead of the verdict, keeping the states of Punjab and Haryana on the edge. The number of followers in Panchkula is expected to swell to lakhs during the day. Reports say that the followers have also stocked up on arms and ammunition, even as the followers have refuted such claims saying they have gathered only to hear the verdict and will go back after it.

Prohibitory orders are in place in Punjab and Haryana, which are on high alert. Thousands of policemen and paramilitary troops have been deployed in Punjab and Haryana with Section 144 being imposed in both states. Schools and colleges in Panchkula have been asked to remain shut on August 24 and 25.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has ordered withdrawal of 1,000 police personnel from VVIP security for deployment on field duty to strengthen the security blanket in the state, say reports. The Centre has also sanctioned an additional 10 companies of paramilitary forces to maintain law and order in the state.

A total of 85 central companies along with thousands of policemen on the ground will maintain a tight vigil, especially in the vulnerable areas of Moga, Bathinda, Sangrur, Barnala, Patiala and Ludhiana, say ANI reports.

The case against Gurmeet Ram Rahim

The rape case against the Dera chief dates back to 2002. Two women followers of Ram Rahim sent anonymous letters to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, accusing the Dera chief of raping them and other sadhvis in his sprawling Dera campus. The sadhvis also accused Ram Rahim of threatening them and warning them against speaking out.

Following the letter, a case was registered by the CBI against the self-styled godman after allegations of sexual exploitation of the sadhvis. During the investigation, the CBI questioned the sadhvis who had left the Dera. The sadhvis reportedly made shocking allegations against Ram Rahim and two of them accused him of having raped them on account of ‘purity’. The hearing in the case has been on since 2007 when the CBI filed a chargesheet against the Dera chief.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim also faces trial in another case involving the murder of a journalist, Ram Chander Chhatrapati and his follower Ranjit Singh in 2002.