Dera supporters on the roadside in Sirsa, where the organisation is based, on Thursday. (AFP)
Chandigarh, Aug. 24: Krishan Kumar has covered 247km in 13 hours, travelling by bus and then on foot, past police checkposts, to reach the outskirts of Panchkula town in Haryana.
Krishan is one among over 1.5 lakh " premis" - followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim - who have been squatting beside the Chandigarh-Shimla highway since earlier this week to be present in Panchkula when a CBI court pronounces its verdict in a 15-year-old rape case against their guru tomorrow.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim said today that he would be in court tomorrow. " Humne sada kanoon ka samman kiya hai I halanki hamare back mein dard hai phir bhi kanoon ki paalna karte huye hum court zaroor jayenge (I have always respected the law. Although I have a back ache, I will be present in court to obey the law)," the Dera chief wrote in a Facebook post.
Sources said Gurmeet Ram Rahim could come in a helicopter. Late tonight, police started evicting Dera supporters. The army has been called out. Internet services have been suspended in Punjab, Haryana and the Union territory of Chandigarh.
In 2002, an anonymous letter purportedly written by a female disciple to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had alleged that Gurmeet Ram Rahim had raped her at the headquarters of the sect on the outskirts of Haryana's Sirsa. Later, another disciple had made a similar allegation.
Krishan, an autorickshaw driver in Hisar's Hansi, has sacrificed his daily earnings to be in Panchkula, part of a tri-city that also includes Chandigarh and Mohali, since yesterday. Krishan, who has his parents, wife and six-year-old daughter to look after, earns around Rs 500 a day.
"If someone in the family falls ill, I have to dig into the little that I manage to save," said Krishan, who has been visiting the Dera headquarters at least once a month for the past 17 years.
Asked why he had come to Panchkula, the 40-year-old said: " Karna kya hai? Danga fasad karne nahin aaye hain. Hum sach ke saath hain (What do we have to do? We are not here for any violence. We are with the truth)."
Punjab and Haryana High Court today questioned how the Haryana government could allow so many devotees to assemble in Panchkula despite the prohibitory orders, under which assemblies of four or more people are not allowed.
The division bench of acting Chief Justice Surinder Singh Sairon and Justice Avneesh Jhingan said the court did not want a repeat of the Jat agitation of 2015. The court warned of action against the director-general of police in case of failure to maintain law and order.
The court also ordered the Centre to provide adequate forces. According to sources, around 15,000 central paramilitary personnel have been deployed in Punjab and Haryana.
"The government will call in the army if needed," said Ram Niwas, the Haryana home secretary.
The Haryana government has requested the railways to suspend train services in the state for the next 72 hours.
"A joint control room of Haryana and Punjab police and administrative officials has been set up to monitor the situation," Niwas said.