Panchkula (Har), Aug 25: Enraged by the rape conviction of self-styled godman Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh today, thousands of his followers went on the rampage, hurling stones and vandalising media vehicles. At least five people were killed and scores injured.
Police fired in the air and also lobbed tear gas and let loose water cannons on the protesters to quell the violence, which appeared to be spreading in Haryana, Punjab and even Rajasthan.
The duty doctor at the Civil Hospital in Panchkula said at least five people were killed.
A reporter of CNN News 18 TV said a steady stream of ambulances was bringing scores of injured people to the hospital, soaked in blood. He described the scene as “chaos.” It was not clear if the injuries were due to police action or violence by Dera followers.
“The flow of injured is not stopping,” said the reporter in his dispatch, which also showed pictures of vehicles burning, and at least one person lying motionless by the roadside. The report said the man was dead.
It said at least 100 people were injured and eight people may have died, but this could not be immediately confirmed.
Immediately after a court here convicted the Dera Sacha Sauda chief, many of his followers, including a large number of women, broke police barricades and security cordons.
At least three OB vans of private television channels were damaged. Two vans were overturned by a mob.
The India Today Group’s TV channel showed pictures of its correspondent and cameraman being attacked while they were travelling in a van in Sirsa, the Dera’s headquarters. The camera captured images of the windshield and windows being struck by men with sticks.
The glass shattered and one of the occupants of the van was heard moaning.
The video then showed his bloodied face.
The police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells on sections of the crowds, many of them camping since last night on the streets of Panchkula.
The police also used water cannons and batons on the protesters to bring the situation under control.
CBI judge Jagdeep Singh, while holding the 50-year-old Dera chief guilty of rape, said the quantum of sentence would be pronounced on August 28, CBI counsel HPS Verma told reporters outside the court.
The punishment can be a jail term of not less than seven years but may even extend to life imprisonment.
Army personnel and central paramilitary forces took positions around the CBI court complex in Panchkula, as the area close to the complex was sealed. PTI