JCB machines, locksmiths, forensic experts and dog squads assisted a comprehensive search operation launched by security agencies and district authorities at the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters near Haryana’s Sirsa town on Friday. The search operation began amid tight security and curfew in the area on Friday morning.
Officials involved in the search remained tight-lipped about the recoveries made inside. The media was stopped at some distance from the Dera premises to avoid any controversy.
One official told media said that some cash had been recovered from inside and that a couple of rooms in one of the buildings had been sealed.
Official sources said that the search operation could take a long time. Internet services in and around Sirsa town were suspended by local authorities on Friday. The search was being conducted under the supervision of court commissioner A.K.S. Pawar appointed by the Punjab and Haryana High Courts.
Senior district administration and police officers, along with para-military forces and Haryana Police, were involved in the videographed operation around the sprawling 700-acre campus. Duty magistrates have been appointed for various zones of the Dera. Officials from police, revenue, health, education, tourism and other departments also participated. Bomb disposal squads and commandos were also deployed inside as a preventive measure.
All roads leading to the headquarters from Sirsa and nearby places were sealed.
The Dera is spread over two campuses, 600 acres and over 100 acres respectively, about eight km from Sirsa and 260 km from Chandigarh.
It houses a stadium, a hospital, educational institutions, luxury resort, bungalows and markets. Hundreds of people and sect followers permanently live and work in the mini-township.
The premises, where the sect chief lived, known as the “gufa” (cave), is itself spread over an area of nearly 100 acres. It is said to have ultra-luxury facilities. The campus has palatial bungalows of his other family members, none of whom are in the premises since August 25, when the sect chief was convicted of rape and sent to jail.
Security was tightened around the Dera headquarters since Wednesday following the approval granted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to the state government to “search and sanitise” the premises. Dera administration chairperson Vipassana, who is a close aide of the sect head, issued a fresh appeal to sect followers urging them to cooperate in the search operation.
Hours before the search operation began, the sect’s mouthpiece “Sach Kahoon” on Thursday admitted that human remains were buried inside the premises. The Dera newspaper, while defending the action of the Dera management in burying the human remains, said this was done as the sect chief encouraged followers to donate the remains to the sect for burial and prevent these from being immersed in rivers, causing pollution.