Sirsa/Chandigarh: The search operation of the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters near Haryana’s Sirsa town continued on Saturday with hundreds of security personnel and local administration involved in the exercise.
Curfew continues in the area around the sprawling Dera campus. The search operation to sanitise the sect premises started on Friday with a few computers, a luxury SUV and some currency notes being seized. According to sources, the search teams had also found hundreds of pairs of shoes, designer clothes and colourful caps of the disgraced sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was convicted on two counts of rape of female disciples in August.
The search operation began amid tight security and curfew in the area on Friday morning. The media was stopped at some distance from the Dera premises. JCB machines, locksmiths, forensic experts and dog squads were called in to assist in the comprehensive search. Internet services in Sirsa district were suspended by local authorities on Friday.
The search was being conducted under the supervision of Court Commissioner A.K. Pawar appointed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Senior district administration and police officers, along with the paramilitary forces and Haryana Police, were involved in the videographed operation around the sprawling 700-acre campus. Duty magistrates were appointed for various zones of the Dera.
Officials from the Police, Revenue, Health, Education, Tourism and other departments are involved in the operation. Bomb disposal squads and commandos were also deployed inside the sect premises as a preventive measure. All roads leading to the headquarters from Sirsa and nearby places were sealed. The Dera is spread over two campuses, 600 acres and over 100 acres respectively, about eight km from Sirsa and 260 km from Chandigarh.
It houses a stadium, a hospital, educational institutions, luxury resort, bungalows and markets. Hundreds of people and sect followers permanently live and work in the mini-township. The premises, where the sect chief lived, known as the “gufa” (cave), is itself spread over an area of nearly 100 acres. It is said to have ultra-luxury facilities.
The campus has palatial bungalows of his other family members, none of whom are in the premises since August 25, when the sect chief was convicted of rape and sent to jail. Ram Rahim was convicted in the 1999 rape cases by a CBI special court in Panchkula on August 25. He was later sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment and is lodged in the District Jail at Sunaria near Rohtak. His conviction led to violence in Panchkula and Sirsa in Haryana, leaving 38 people dead and 264 injured. Isolated incidents of violence were also reported from Delhi and several other places in Punjab.