From murder to mass castrations, the many charges against Ram Rahim Singh
The law has finally caught up with Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the self-styled 'godman' and the head of Dera Sacha Sauda.
On 25 August, a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana, convicted him on charges of rape in a case which dates back to 2002. But that case, however, is not the only case to have dogged him over the years. Several cases, including that of a murder of a journalist, are still pending as Ram Rahim Singh has largely enjoyed patronage from politicians of all hues.
Despite the severity of the charges against him, he has not been arrested earlier.
At the time of his arrest, in fact, he is a Z-plus protectee, the highest security cover, which was granted to him over perceived threats from Khalistani groups.
The flashy Ram Rahim Singh, who likes to be addressed using his many titles which include 'Insan’ and ‘Messenger of God’, joins the infamous list of godmen which include the likes of Asaram and Rampal who are either facing grave charges of murder or rape or have been convicted finally - like in MSG's own case.
A controversial guru
Ram Rahim Singh heads a powerful sect of several million followers, mostly from the lower caste. This is where the sense of impunity flows from - if you touch the ‘Pitaji’, as his followers call him, all hell will break loose - the way violence has consumed over 30 lives with several hundreds injured after the CBI court declared him guilty.
This immense sense of power and impunity were also likely to have been why the two women followers who were raped by the godman chose to write an anonymous letter detailing their ordeal to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee instead of filing a police complaint.
The three-page letter narrating what the two women were subjected to in Ram Rahim’s personal chamber in the sprawling Sirsa Ashram was carried by a local newspaper called Poora Sach on May 30 2002. The expose led to the Punjab and Haryana High Court to order a CBI probe.
Months later, the editor of the newspaper Ram Chander Chhatrapati was shot dead from point blank range outside his house. In reports which quote the editor's son, who lives in Sirsa, the son says that it was a huge struggle to get Ram Rahim Singh tried for his father’s murder and it was only possible after the court ordered a CBI probe. In fact, the local police had not included the Dera chief’s name in the FIR.
The same CBI court in Panchkula is expected to announce judgement in the murder case soon.
In July 2003, Ranjit Singh, a Dera follower, was murdered after he exposed misdeeds that were going on at his Sirsa ashram, including the sexual exploitation of women.
In 2010, CBI again probed the death of another Dera follower, but filed a closure report citing lack of evidence against the Dera chief.
Ram Rahim, if allegations are anything to go by, has rather strange ways of controlling his followers.
In 2012, Hansraj Chauhan, moved the Haryana High Court with allegations of another bizarre crime that he alleged had taken place in the Sirsa Ashram - that Ram Rahim got 400 of his followers castrated, fooling them into believing that it was a godly act. The reason cited for doing so was that it was done to make sure that they did not make sexual advances towards the female followers at the Sirsa ashram. The case is pending in the court.