Panchkula: The death toll in the violence that erupted in Haryana after the rape conviction of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief has climbed to 31 and the situation "is tense but under control", the Union Home Ministry Saturday said.
"As per Panchkula Control Room in Haryana, the situation in Panchkula and Sirsa is very tense but under control," a home ministry spokesperson said.
There were reports that 31 people lost their lives in the violence since Friday. Among the total fatalities, 29 were in Panchkula and two in Sirsa, he said.
The headquarters of the sect led by the self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh are in Sirsa.
Thousands of followers of Ram Rahim went on the rampage, setting fire to vehicles, buildings and railway stations soon after a special CBI court convicted him in a 2002 rape case.
Police responded by opening fire.
The unrest which began in Panchkula where the verdict was handed down, spread to other parts of Haryana and Punjab and even New Delhi where a bus and train were set on fire.
The identity of the dead or whether all of them were Dera supporters was not known immediately.
"Seventeen people are dead and at least 200 are injured," said Vivek Bhadu, chief medical officer at the civil hospital in Panchkula.
While five were brought dead, 12 others succumbed to injuries at the civil hospital, Bhadu said, adding that most of the deaths were due to bullet injuries.
Nearly 50 persons were referred to PGIMER hospital at Chandigarh while 33 others were rushed to Government Medical College and Hospital(GMCH), also at Chandigarh.
"Seven have died in PGIMER," Manju Wadwalkar, the spokesperson of Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research(PGIMER) told PTI.
The details of how many were brought dead or died at PGI were not immediately available.
Dr Ravi Gupta, head of the GMCH at Sector 32, said 33 persons were brought to the hospital from Panchkula.
"While we could not resuscitate one person, another died during surgery and two others were brought dead," Gupta told PTI.
According to Sirsa district civil surgeon, 2 Dera followers had died in the violence.
Haryana DGP B.S. Sandhu, who visited the civil hospital at Sector 6 here, said that over a thousand Dera followers have been taken into custody.
"Dera followers have been flushed out of Panchkula while over a thousand have been taken into preventive custody," Sandhu said, adding the situation here is under control.
A stream of ambulances brought in injured people soaked in blood to the civil hospital here and at PGIMER hospital.
Police fired in the air, lobbed tear gas and let loose water cannons on the protesters who included a large number of women.
Curfew was also clamped in Panchkula.
Curfew was also imposed in place in Sirsa while Kaithal town was also brought under curfew this evening.
At least 32 incidents of violence and arson were reported from Malwa region of Punjab, police said. However, no casualty was reported.
Curfew was clamped in Mansa, Bathinda, Ferozepur, Patiala, Sangrur and Barnala and Faridkot, the areas considered as stronghold of the Dera followers.
But the curfew had little effect on the protesters, who also set fire to Malout and Balluanna railway stations in Punjab, according to the Northern Railways. Many motorcycles, cars and buildings, including an Income Tax building in Mansa in Punjab, were also set on fire.
Arsonists attempted to set fire to Dagru railway station which falls between Moga and Ferozepur, police said.
However, a Sewa Kendra was set on fire near Faridkot.
Six columns of army, comprising a total of 500 to 600 soldiers were deployed in Panchkula.
At least three OB vans of private television channels were damaged here. 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 traveling 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.
CBI judge Jagdeep Singh, while holding the Dera chief guilty of raping a female follower more than 15 years ago, said the quantum of sentence would be pronounced on August 28.
The punishment can be a jail term of not less than seven years but may even extend to life imprisonment.
To recover violence damages from Dera properties
The Haryana government said the cost of damage caused during the violence would be recovered from the properties of the sect.
"The amount of compensation will later be recovered from the property of Dera Sacha Sauda," chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the state government to provide a list of properties of the sect so that cost of damages could be recovered from the sect management.
Prez condemns violence
President Ram Nath Kovind condemned violence and damage to public property by followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda and asked all people to maintain peace.
"Violence and damage to public property after court verdict is highly condemnable; appeal to all citizens to maintain peace," the president said in a tweet.