Ram Rahim rape case verdict: Haryana and Punjab have been put on high alert and prohibitory orders imposed ahead of the court verdict in an alleged rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Army has been put on standby for help to maintain law and order, while the Centre has assured all possible help to both states. The verdict will be announced by a special CBI court in Panchkula on August 25.
It may be surprising for many as to how a case against the head of a religious group has almost halted everything in two states. To understand this we need to look into the history of the case, Dera’s conflict with Sikhs and also about Ram Rahim, who has acted in films.
The history of the case dates back to 2002 when a Dera Sacha Sauda sadhvi sent an anonymous letter to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, accusing Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of raping her and many other sadhvis. The sadhvi had also accused the Dera chief of threatening her not to talk about the incident to anyone.
On September 24, 2002, the Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu cognizance of the letter and referred the matter to CBI for probe. According to The Indian Express, CBI had questioned 18 sadhvis. Some of them reportedly told investigating officials that Ram Rahim and his followers were “very dangerous people”. Two sadhvis had accused Dera head of rape. One of them even alleged that she was raped by the Dera chief so that she might be “purified.”
The CBI filed its chargesheet in the case on July 30, 2017.
Apart from the rape case, Ram Rahim is also an accused in the murders of Dera follower Ranjit Singh and journalist Ram Chander Chattrapati. Ranjit’s family alleges he was killed on July 10, 2002 on the suspicion of being involved in the anonymous letter by the sadhvi. Chattrapati, who had written a lot on illegal activities within the Dera, was shot at on October 23, 2002. He died in hospital after a month.
Both Punjab and Haryana states have a large number of Dera followers. Dera followers, most of whom are Dalits, are spread in other states as well. According to the official website the sect, it has around 60 million “faithful followers” around the world. The sect calls itself as a “Social Welfare & Spiritual Organization that preaches and practices humanitarianism and selfless services to others.”
Authorities fear the supporters would resort to largescale violence if Ram Rahim is found guilty. The Dera chief has, however, appealed for peace. Thousands of Dera followers, who are also called as “premis”, have gathered in Panchkula, at the headquarters of the sect in Sirsa as well as its deras in both states to show their solidarity with Ram Rahim.
Punjab has more reasons to worry as Dera followers and Sikhs have been involved in bloody clashes in past. It is feared they will face-off again, irrespective of the result of the case.
Sikh institutions hold an old grouse against Dera for taking away a section of Sikhs. Dera followers mostly constitute of Dalit Sikhs, who feel discriminated at the hands of upper-caste Sikhs. In past, Dera has tried to wield its political influence. There was a massive clash between Sikhs and Dera followers when Ram Rahim allegedly dressed up as Guru Gobind Singh in 2007. The Dera had then accused ruling Shiromani Akali Dal of targeting its followers as Dera had supported Congress in elections.
According to the official website of the sect, Dera Sacha Sauda was founded on April 29, 1948 by Beparawah Mastana Ji Maharaj to “encourage spiritual awakening among masses” Mastana Ji Maharaj hailed from Baluchistan. In 1960, he passed the reins of Dera to his spiritual successor Shah Satnam Singh Ji Maharaj. In 1990, Satnam Singh handed over Dera to Ram Rahim, whose full name according to the website is “Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan.”
The website claims Ram Rahim is “bent upon eradicating social evils such as prostitution, female foeticide and others.” “Motivation” from him has “resulted in bringing forth approximately 1500 noble souls, who are ready to marry the ex-prostitutes.”