Officials recovered on Friday cash, computers, an unregistered car, a broadcast van and “plastic money” as they began combing through the 700-acre campus of the spiritual cult Dera Sacha Sauda, whose chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was sent to prison last month for raping two women.
Police and forensics officials entered the Sira, Haryana campus with a security cover that included commandos, police canines and 4,000 paramilitary soldiers, and the district administration shut down mobile internet services for two days to thwart backlash from Dera members.
Followers of Singh ran riot last month hours after his conviction, destroying crores in public and private property before police opened fire to stop them. More than 30 people were killed in the violence.
On Friday, Sirsa and surrounding regions were tense as the sanitisation exercise began. “Pharmacy medicines without label, OB van, Lexus car without number found inside the dera,” said Satish Mehra, the deputy director of Haryana government’s public relations department. Mehra added that cash had also been found, but it was yet to be counted.
Hours before the sanitation drive began, the mouthpiece of the spiritual cult said that skeletons were buried inside the campus, which is spread in two clusters of 600 acres and 100 acres. The campus includes a stadium, a resort, a hospital, educational institutions and sprawling bungalows of the sect’s leaders. Most members were permanent residents of the township, which followed its own currency.
The 700-acre Dera Sacha Sauda campus in Sirsa includes a stadium, a hospital and resorts, and people followed a parallel currency in the township. (Google Maps)
The sanitisation process will be videographed and is being overseen by retired District and Sessions Judge, AKS Pawar, who was appointed as Court Commissioner by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday.
Roads leading to the Dera headquarters were put under curfew, and no one was allowed inside the campus.
A large number of vehicles — police and paramilitary buses, Quick Reaction Team vans, bomb
disposal squad and anti-sabotage team vehicles, and bulldozers —made their way inside the Dera premises in the morning, officials said.
“We have formed a strategy and are hopeful that the sanitisation process will be conducted in a smooth manner. The Dera management too has expressed willingness to cooperate with the local administration and police during investigation,” Haryana police DGP BS Sandhu said in Chandigarh a day before.