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Riots in Haryana after Ram Rahim convicted, 3 dead

Supporters of religious leaders Ram Rahim have gone on rampage in Panchkula in Haryana after a court there convicted him of rape.

At least three supporters of the guru have been shot dead by the police so far.

UPDATE – The number of dead has reached eight and injuries are in their hundreds.

According to various media outlets, the supporters have unleashed violence at police and local establishments.

“I have taken refuge in a house. They are attacking everyone,” said a reporter for NDTV from Panchkula.

“The police were simply outnumbered,” he added.

Pictures showed dozens of cars and two-wheelers burning on the streets of Panchkula.

“The police personnel started running backward when the attack started. They were simply outnumbered. That’s when we (the media) were exposed,” he said. “There was no provocation. The OB vans were caught in between. They ransacked them, and put them on fire.”

ABP News showed footage that showed a dead body on the street of Panchkula.

According to media reports, members of Dera Sachha Sauda have set fire to vehicles, including those of the media, and attacked shops.

NDTV was showing smoke rising from the area where the court is situated.

The reporter said there were about 50,000 supporters of Ram Rahim on the streets in the town, and it was difficult for the police to keep them under control.

“Our vehicle is completely destroyed… They are very violent, they are behaving like animals,” said India Today’s reporter from Sirsa.

The situation in Sirsa is reported to be the worst among all cities, with the roads full of ambulances. SWOT and rapid action teams are being sent to Sirsa.

A Tehsil office has been attacked in Haryana.

India Today television channel showed paramillitary forces retreating in the face of an attacking mob. It also showed attacks on its workers, one of whom seemed to have been hit hard by a blunt object.

The India Today reporter said ordinary people in the state are facing the brunt of the supporters’ ire.

An Aaj Tak reporter said supporters of the guru had weapons like swords and lathis with them and were attacking blindly.

Ram Rahim has meanwhile been handed over to the Army’s Western Command’s headquarters, and is likely to be shifted to Rohtak or Gudgaon jail shortly.

REACTIONS

Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is expected to speak shortly.

Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh said he would have handled things differently if he was in charge of the situation in Panchkula, and appealed for calm in Punjab.

“It should have been expected that there would have some sort of reaction. There are no public buses, no private buses. Trains have been stopped in Haryana.

“They should have been halted at the districts. Once they concentrated in Panchkula, there was not much option. You have 300-400 policemen. If they opened fire, it would have killed hundreds of people. No chief minister would have liked that. The mistake was made yesterday. They should not have been allowed to concentrate in Panchkula,” said Singh.

He said two districts are under curfew, and no damage was done. “They were trying to set fire to a power station and a railway station, but they were caught just in time. We have been preparing for last one week,” he said.

He said the tensions are confined to Southern Punjab.

One government office has been set on fire in Bhatinda in Punjab.

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