Minors rescued from Dera ‘cave’

The Hindu

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New luxury car, currency seized as search operations begin in Sirsa

Two minors were among five persons rescued from a gufa or cave during the search operations launched early on Friday at the sprawling Satlokpur Dham, the headquarters of the Dera Sacha Sauda complex here.

A team of forensic experts from the IIT-Roorkee inspected the gufa, Deputy Director of Haryana’s Information and Public Relations Department Satish Mehra said.

The head of the Dera, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, allegedly sexually exploited women inside the so-called cave, according to one of the rape victims, whose complaint led to his trial and conviction.

A senior government official said the sanitisation process led to the recovery of an unregistered Lexus car, the OB van of a news channel, 1,500 shoes and 3,000 designer outfits belonging to Gurmeet Singh.

Massive deployment

An uneasy calm descended on the 700-acre complex as deployment began at 6.30 a.m. An estimated 5,000 policemen and 41 companies of the Army and paramilitary forces were part of the operation. Bulldozers, earthmoverss, trucks and heavy equipment could be seen moving to Satlokpur Dham.

The search was monitored and videographed by retired district and sessions judge A.K.S. Panwar, the court commissioner appointed for the purpose by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The Dera complex was divided into 10 zones for the purpose of sanitisation and searches, with each zone under the control of a senior officer.

‘Dera currency’

Mr. Mehra said they had also seized “unnamed medicines,” old currency notes, plastic “Dera currency” notes, walkie-talkie sets, hard discs and CDs. The hard discs and CDs have been sent for forensic analysis,he added.

On the persons rescued from the so-called cave, Mr Mehra said they could not provide “satisfactory answers” when asked about their presence there. “We are in the process of establishing the identities of the persons,” he told The Hindu. The minor boys hail from Kaithal (in Haryana) and Uttar Pradesh and have been handed over to the District Child Protection Officer, he added.

“Regarding other three we are asking them about their whereabouts and will later send them home,” Mr Mehra said.

Intelligence inputs

According to a senior police official, there were intelligence inputs that Dera followers camping in the city may look for an opportunity to storm the complex. As a precautionary step the government had clamped down on mobile internet services till September 10.

The main access point to the estate was shut and several truckloads of supporters of Gurmeet Singh were turned away.

Ban orders

“Prohibitory orders are in place from this point till the Dera. Jammers, too, are in place. We have been told to be ready for any eventuality. It could be like this for the next 18 to 20 days,” said a paramilitary official manning the barricades.

“The route towards the Dera has been blocked since the verdict was announced but things were gradually returning to normal and police deployment in the city gradually receding until last night. Thankfully, there is no curfew on this side of the barricade like the last time,” said Rajnish Dabas, a resident, who apprehended sporadic violence “any time.”

(With inputs from PTI)

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