In video appeal, Dera Sacha Sauda chief asks followers to keep calm
The sexual exploitation case was registered against Gurmeet Ram Rahim in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Photograph: (Twitter)
In a midnight appeal on video hours ahead of the rape case verdict against him, Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim asked his followers to maintain calm and leave Panchkula, where a CBI court is set to deliver its decision today.
Security has been stepped up at the Panchkula court before the verdict which is expected to be delivered at 11:30 am today.
An estimated 1.5 lakh followers of the Dera chief have have congregated in Panchkula, a district of Haryana and a part of its capital and union territory Chandigarh, to express their solidarity with Ram Rahim, whom they consider as "Pita ji (father).
In a video appeal at midnight, Gurmeet Ram Rahim said, "I had earlier appealed to maintain peace and calm and asked (followers) not to go to Panchkula. All those (followers) who are in Panchkula should return to their home.
"I have to go to the court for hearing the verdict and I will go to Panchkula. We should all abide by law and maintain peace and calm".
The surging crowds are posing a huge challenge to security personnel who have been asking them to move out of the town.
On Thursday, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had asked Ram Rahim's followers to ask him to make an appeal to his followers to return to their homes.
The high court had also questioned the state police about allowing thousands of Dera followers to gather in Panchkula ahead of the court verdict.
The high court also slammed the Haryana government for allowing Dera followers to enter Panchkula in large numbers despite prohibitory orders being clamped.
The case against Gurmeet Ram Rahim was registered in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court after two women followers accused him of sexual exploitation.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim has denied the charges.