Sirsa: Sirsa will not sleep tonight. Like a stream, thousands of men and women -- children in tow -- have been flowing into the Haryana city, the headquarters of the Dera Sacha Sauda, whose chief is expected to face a verdict on a rape case on Friday.
Outside the gates of the sprawling complex, just on the outskirts of the city, a battalion of women stands, wooden sticks in hand.
They are among the many followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh who have gathered there to voice their support for the leader of the sect.
"I came to Dera three days ago with my husband to support guru ji. We will not sleep tonight as with the guru's blessing, my family has progressed," said Surmeet Kaur, a resident of Haryana's Hisar district.
The chief, who heads a religious sect that draws hundreds of thousands of disciples, is set to appear before a CBI court in Panchkula, which is expected to pronounce its verdict in a 15-year-old rape case.
Sirsa has been put on high alert, and the Army deployed in both Sirsa and Panchkula. Hundreds of police personnel have been posted across the districts to ensure there is peace once the verdict is delivered.
The police have also sealed roads leading to the Dera headquarters and pickets have been put up in the neighbouring areas as a precautionary measure, the district police said.
But well before the pickets came into place, the followers -- from Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Chandigarh -- had gathered around the headquarters.
His followers are convinced that the sect's guru has been falsely charged.
"I have come here to support guru ji who has done nothing wrong. We are fully confident the court verdict will be in his favour," said Jaipur resident Rajesh Meena, a follower.
If the verdict goes against their guru, they added there could be trouble.
"Followers may go to any extent if the court verdict goes against him," warned another of his devotees, Laambh Singh, who has come to Sirsa from Bathinda in Punjab.
Women followers plan to keep vigil all night, though separate arrangements have been made for their stay by the Dera management.
"We are carrying sticks to guard the dera against anti-social elements," said Dera member Navjyuot.
Prohibitory orders have been imposed on Sirsa. Vehicles moving towards the headquarters are being checked, with the police noting down drivers' mobile and vehicle numbers.
"We have made sufficient arrangements for law and order in the district," Sirsa SP Aswin Senvi said.
Another senior police officer said besides the 10 additional companies of paramilitary forces, police from neighbouring districts had been called in.
The 50-year-old guru put out a tweet appealing for peace and saying he would go to court even though he had a backache....