Gurmeet Ram Rahim Verdict: Countries Issue Safety Advisories to Citizens
The United Kingdom, Canada and Australia have issued advisories to their citizens travelling to India in light of the violence that erupted after self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s conviction in a rape case on Friday. More than 30 people died and about 250 were injured after thousands of followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda, the sect led by Ram Rahim, went on rampage in Haryana, Punjab and Delhi, engaging in violence and arson throughout the day.
Britain on Saturday asked its citizens to avoid crowded places in the affected areas. “A number of deaths have been reported in violent clashes following the conviction of the head of the Dera Sacha Sauda spiritual organisation. High alerts and a ban on unauthorised gatherings are in place throughout Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh until August 30, 2017,” according to the advice issued by the UK. “The British Deputy High Commission and British Council offices in Chandigarh are closed until Monday (August 28). Due to the possibility of further serious violence, you should avoid large gatherings, follow the advice of the local authorities, monitor local media and keep in touch with your travel company. Local road and rail travel may be significantly disrupted during this period.”
Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
Photo Credit: IANS
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) too warned India-bound travellers to avoid large gatherings and monitor the developments closely. “Local transport has been significantly disrupted with a number of roads closed and rail services cancelled,” the advisory said, asking people to “avoid large gatherings as they could become violent”. It added: “Mobile internet services in Chandigarh have been suspended. Monitor the media for developments that may affect your safety and security. The level of our advice has not changed. Exercise a high degree of caution in India overall.”
Canada issued a similar notification. It said: “Following the conviction of a prominent sect leader on August 25, 2017, tensions remain high in the states of Punjab and Haryana, and various other areas. Tens of thousands of people have gathered in protest, some of which have become violent. Local authorities have placed Delhi on high alert due to sporadic violence. Various trains through Haryana and the Punjab have been cancelled and road closures and security checks have been imposed. Power supplies, mobile internet and other telecommunication services are restricted in certain areas. If you are in one of the affected areas, limit your movements and monitor local media for the latest information”
Warnings and precautionary messages against travelling to Haryana and Punjab were being posted on social media even before the court’s verdict came. Many NRIs were cancelling their plans to visit their homes in the two states during the past week, according to an Indian Express report. They were closely watching the situation and keeping in touch with their relatives and friends to
The United States had also issued safety advisory for its citizens ahead of the ruling.