Even after rape, murder convictions, followers stand by Dera head

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is currently serving a 20-year prison term for the rape of two women followers

Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh might have been convicted for rape and murder, but troubles with the law have not made his followers question him.

Pita ji, as Premis (a term for Dera’s followers) call him, is currently serving a 20-year prison term for the rape of two women followers.

On Friday, he was convicted for murdering a Dera manager in 2002. But at the Dera headquarters in Haryana’s Sirsa, the “terrible news” was met with a call to keep the faith in Guru ji and the higher courts of law.

At Begu Road in Sirsa, which comprises a large number of shops and complexes that are named after Dera Sacha Sauda’s founder Shah Satnam, Sandeep, who runs a music store in Shah Satnam Ji Super Market told The Indian Express that “he would not like to comment on the verdict pronounced by the court”.

However, he added that followers continue to go to the Dera as earlier.

From the prison, Ram Rahim has been writing letters to his followers that are read out during regular Satsangs at the Dera. His old video messages are also telecast on huge television screens installed for the gathering.

“Satsang is held every Sunday from 10 am till 12 noon. We all go there, every Sunday. Pita ji’s letters that he writes for us are read out during the Satsang. His old videos and messages that he gives to his followers are also telecast during the Satsang,” said Sandeep.

Pawan Kumar, who runs a garment store in the same marker, says, “If you look at the history, ‘truth’ has always had to face hardships. All the saints had to go through such hardships. It is just arm-twisting happening with Pita ji. I am 47-years old, today. My entire family has Dera’s followers. My father, Purshottam Lal, has been a Dera follower for the last six decades. When Pita ji has always told us not to even harm a bird, how can we believe that he killed anybody? Some sinister conspiracies are being hatched against him”.

Although nobody from Dera chief’s family was available for comment, but Pawan Kumar claimed that all his family members including his son, Jasmeet, foster daughter Honeypreet and others visit the Dera every Sunday and participate in the Satsang that is attended by thousands of Dera’s followers.

In reaction to Dera chief’s first conviction on rape charges on August 25, 2017, at least 36 persons were killed as Dera followers went on a rampage in Panchkula (where the CBI’s special court pronounced the verdict) and Sirsa, where the Dera’s headquarters is located, and at several other places across Haryana.

Ever since then, although the Dera chief is lodged in jail, the sect has continued with its routine activities with him as their “spiritual master”.

Dera’s website continues to carry Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s pictures and messages and identify him as Dera’s current “spiritual master”.

There was a time, when politicians used to make a beeline to seek Dera chief’s blessings and support of his huge numbers of followers in the polls.

In October 2014, when BJP formed the government in Haryana with an absolute majority for the first time, at least 40 of BJP’s then elected MLAs led by then party’s election affairs incharge Kailash Vijayvargiya had paid a visit to Dera Sacha Sauda to meet Ram Rahim and thank him for his support in the Assembly polls. Similarly, in 2017, the Dera had announced support to BJP-SAD in Punjab elections as well.

Spread over 1,000 acres, the Dera is a township with its own hotel, cinema hall, cricket stadium, a speciality hospital, two schools, sports village, a studio, a printing press where a newspaper Sach Kahoon is printed, a bio-gas plant, apart from a large chunk of land being used for agriculture purposes.

Speaking about Friday’s verdict, Dr P R Nain, who is also the vice-chairman of Dera Sacha Sauda Trust, told The Indian Express, “This is terrible news for all of us. It is not good at all. What more can we say at this stage? I do not want to talk anything about it, today. I am sitting with the Superintendent of Police in a meeting. I shall talk later”.

Dr Nain did not respond to repeated phone calls and messages, after that.

Dera Sacha Sauda also released a statement for the media saying, “We will challenge the Panchkula CBI court’s verdict, pronounced today, in the High Court. We have full faith that we shall get justice from the higher courts of law. We also appeal to all our followers to maintain their faith in Guru ji and all those 135 social works for humanity’s well-being that have been taught by Guru ji should be carried out, as earlier.”

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