New Delhi, India. August 28th: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, chief of the controversial sect Dera Sacha Sauda, was sentenced today to ten years in prison at a special court near Rohtak town in Haryana. The sentence was pronounced in a court specially set up inside the District Jail premises in Sunaria near Rohtak, where Ram Rahim was brought and lodged after his conviction by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court Judge Jagdeep Singh. Judge Jagdeep Singh had on Friday held the Dera chief guilty of r**e and criminal intimidation of two female disciples in 2002. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s legal team has already said it will appeal against the verdict in the Punjab and Haryana high court. Prosecutors had reportedly asked fro a harsher sentence. They had called for a life term.
Following the sentencing, the chief minister of Haryana state, where Singh’s ashram is located, called an emergency meeting. The sect chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted on two counts for rape (Section 376 IPC), criminal intimidation (Section 506 IPC) and Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman). The minimum punishment for rape is seven years which can extend to a possible life sentence. The other sections have imprisonment for two and one years respectively.
Prior to sentencing, the district jail premises, about 10 km from Rohtak town, was completely cordoned off by security forces, including para-military forces and Haryana Police. The Army was also kept on stand-by.
No movement of people, other than those authorized, is allowed within a distance of 10 km from the prison premises.
“We are fully prepared for any situation. The army has been kept on stand-by,” Haryana Director General of police (DGP) BS Sandhu said.
Rohtak range Inspector General (IG) Navdeep Singh Virk said that 28 companies of para-military forces, along with Haryana Police, have been deployed in Rohtak.
Security forces were on high alert again today in Haryana and Punjab as both states braced for the announcement of quantum of punishment to the disgraced sect chief. Curfew was reimposed in Haryana’s Sirsa town, where the sect’s headquarters are located, on Sunday. The curfew is still on.
Ahead of today’s sentencing, Delhi was also put on high alert and the police heightened vigil. Madhur Verma, Delhi Police’s Public Relations Officer, said additional forces were deployed in sensitive areas and senior officers are keeping a tight vigil.
On Saturday, at least 38 people died when violent protests erupted in the country’s north immediately after the self-styled ‘godman’ was found guilty of r**ing the two women in 2002. But today police said they are taking no chances and have deployed thousands of riot police on the streets, closed schools and shut down internet services in two northern states.
Extra measures like deployment of Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams and reserve forces were taken. Flag marches were conducted in some areas, including northeast Delhi, police said.
A high alert was sounded in the national capital on Friday night which continued to remain in force on Sunday with senior police officers, accompanied by reserve forces, patrolling different areas.
Prohibitory orders have been imposed in 11 of 13 police districts, barring north and central Delhi, in the city to prevent gathering of miscreants.
Cases of torching of DTC buses and train coaches were reported from different parts of the city on Friday, following the conviction of Gurmeet Ram Rahim in a rape case, by a Special CBI court in Haryana’s Panchkula.
Ram Rahim is also facing trial in three criminal cases. He is accused of murdering Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chatrapati, who had investigated and written about alleged illegal activities going on in the Dera. Chatrapati was shot on October 24, 2002, and he died a month later in hospital.
The Dera chief is also accused of allegedly killing, in July 2002, sect manager Ranjit Singh. In 2002, a sadhvi had written an anonymous letter addressed to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, accusing Ram Rahim of saxual abuse. In his defence, the self-styled godman had told Panchkula court that he is not mentally and physically fit to have saxual intercourse.
Ram Rahim built a cave-themed palatial underground home in the dera where he would meditate and saxually exploit women. Based on the concept of harem in palaces, he would choose girls from among the devotees, make them surrender their bodies before him and these women would later remain in the dera and wait for being married off to male devotees who followed his orders like slaves or devotees do. These women were guarded by men allegedly neutered or castrated by the dera. This was not a secret. His private quarters were always guarded by his trusted gang of girls.
The r**e, by the way, was called an act of pardon (maafi to be precise). Some women, as was later revealed, believed it was a blessing. But not all. The two women who testified against him had similar stories. The primary complainant, whose anonymous letter to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, became the basis of an FIR by CBI in 2002, told the CBI court that she was called by Pitaji (that’s what they call him) into his gufa (cave) in the intervening night of August 28 and 29, 1999 for granting maafi (pardon). He threatened to kill her if she did not give in. The r**e made her realize the reality of the dera. She complained to her brother, who revolted and escaped with her. He was later murdered.
The second complainant had grown up in the dera where her parents taught in a school. She was guarding the cave residence of the guru. He called her and she went in. The so-called Pitaji was in bed, apparently n*ked. She was shocked and tried running away. But it was too late. Nobody came to help her. She was r**ed. She managed to escape later. She lived to tell her story to the CBI court.
There are scores of other women who have remained silent out of fear or hopelessness. While the man loved his daughters and married them off to a life in luxury, his victims, who he called daughters, but treated like slaves have to live lives without dignity.
Photo: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan
The Dera chief has earned the ire of Sikh radicals in the past, who accused him of allegedly dressing-up as the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh in 2007, following which Punjab had been on the boil for many days.