‘Bakre ki maa kab tak khair manaegi’. At long lat the end of the self styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim has come thanks to the fifteen years delayed investigation into the rape case by the CBI.
The CBI court at Panchkula headed by Jagdeep Singh judge has convicted and punished Gurmeet Ram Rahim for twenty years on the charges of rape of two female followers (Sadhvis). He has been put behind bars at Rohtak Jail august 28 where the CBI Judge Jagdeep Singh pronounced the verdict. He has been convicted in two cases of rape and intimidation ten years in each case and the sentences will run consecutively which means the Baba will have to remain in the jail for twenty years.
KS Chawla Earlier on August 25, the CBI judge declared his guilty and convicted which resulted into largescale violence at Panchkula and Sirsa – the headquarters of the Dera. The followers of the Dera who had collected in large number at Panchkula resorted to rampage and burnt the government and private property.
Similar violence was witnessed at Sirsa where the Milk Plant Vita was razed to ground and large number of buses and other vehicles were set on fire. The largescale violence in Panchkula and Sirsa took place despite the repated warnings by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The High Court had warned the BJP Government in Haryana that Haryana state had already witnessed violence during the jat agitation and Baba Rampal episode. As many as 36 persons were killed in Panchkula. Incidents of violence were also witnessed in Punjab in Malwa belt comprising the districts of Sangrur, Mansa, Barnala, Faridkot, Ferozepur and towns like Malout.
Curfew had to be imposed in both the states and internet services were also suspended. However, the damage in Punjab was quite less compared with the mayhem in Haryana. In Punjab, the civil and the police administration had been given a free hand to handle the situation while in Haryana, Khattar government was soft towards Gurmeet Ram Rahim followers.
The case on the charges of rape and intimidation against Gurmeet Ram Rahim was registered in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court after an anonymous letter was received by the chief justice written by a sadhvi who had been a victim of sexual assault by the Dera head Gurmeet Ram.
As a matter of fact, the anonymous letter had been written to the then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee and copies of the same were sent to the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The high court took suo moto notice of the letter and ordered the enquiry into the same.
Credit must go to the CBI team of investigators which collected a few hurdled sadhvis of Dera and recorded their statements. Although almost all narrated their woes but two sadhvis took the stand and recorded their statement on the basis of which the FIR was registered against the Baba. There were many pitfalls in the investigations as Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim enjoyed political patronage of all the political parties namely BJP, Congress, Indian National Lok Dal and the Shiromini Akali Dal. Since he had a strong following in Punjab and Haryana, all the political parties were vying with each other to gain the support of the Dera followers and they were bowing to the diktats of Gurmeet Ram.
Following political patronage, Gurmeet Ram Rahim managed to build a strong empire and at present assets worth Rs. 6000 crores including agriculture land worth 700 acres. He started social activities within his empire and setup schools, colleges and hospital within the dera premises. He provided all the facilities which the state should have given to the downtrodden. The provision of facilities attracted a very large number of people from various weaker sections and Baba virtually became the spiritual guru. But alongwith social activities Baba turned a devil and started sexually exploiting the women followers. Even teenaged girls became his victims. He also allegedly castrated nearly five hundred youngmen and made them impotent and employed them at his dera.
Baba had become so powerful that he did not bother about the state laws and even employed armymen to give weapon training to his followers at the Dera. The intelligence agencies had warned the central government and states about the designs of the Baba, but they did not bother to take any action because they were more concerned about the vote bank as claimed to have following of six crores in Punjab, Haryana and adjoining states.
In 2014 lok sabha poll, Baba extended support to the BJP led by Narendra Modi and Modi himself came to meet him at Sirsa. Similarly in the Vidhan Sabha election in Haryana which followed the lok sabha poll, Baba extended support to the BJP and the entire Haryana cabinet led by the chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar went to Sirsa to thank Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
Not only this just few days before the verdict against Baba, the Haryana Government presented a cheque of Rs. 51 lakh to him on his 50th birthday on August 15. The money of the tax payers was disbursed to a serial rapist.
In Punjab, the Shiromini Akali Dal has been extending all the facilities to Baba to gain his political patronage and get votes for the vidhan sabha and lok sabha polls.
In May 2007, Baba Ram Rahim became so daring that he dressed himself in the dress of Guru Gobind Singh and baptized his followers in the Dera. This enraged the Sikhs all over the world and the Punjab state witnessed clashes among the Sikhs and the supporters of Baba as a result of which two Sikh youth were killed. Akal Takhat had to issue a hukamnama against Baba Gurmeet Ram directing the Sikhs to socially boycott him and have no relations with him.
In 2015, when Punjab was tense following the incidents of sacrilege in the Malwa region including the burning of Guru Granth Sahib and police firing at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan, the Akal Takhat jathedar was forced to withdraw his hukamnama against Gurmeet Ram Rahim and granted him pardon. But this was resented by the Sikhs and the atmosphere in Punjab was surcharged to such an extent that Akal Takhat jathedar had to withdraw the pardon granted to him.
This pardon was granted at the instance of Sukhbir Singh Badal who was the Deputy Chief Minister and President of the Akali Dal and his father Parkash Singh Badal was the Chief Minister. The exposure of this move was made by Jathedar Gurmukh Singh who was jathedar of the Takhat Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo. Gurmukh Singh was immediately removed as Jathedar of Damdama Sahib and was suspended. But no action has been taken against Akal Takhat jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh so far for his wrong doings as he plays to the tune of Badals.
In the 2017 Vidhan Sabha polls in Punjab in which the SAD-BJP alliance was decimated against the support of Gurmeet Ram Rahim, the resentment among the Sikhs and the Punjabis was so strong that dream of Sukhbir ruling Punjab for 25 years was dashed to the ground as his party got only 15 seats – poor third with Congress gaining absolute majority and forming government with Amarinder Singh leading the charge. One fails to understand with what fact Sukhbir Badal and his brother-in-law Bikram Majithia have welcomed the punishment granted to Gurmeet Ram in the rape case.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has announced that the loss to property in Punjab would met with the confiscation of the properties of Baba Gurmeet. Amarinder has succeeded in establishing his political power in Punjab with the strong handling of the situation in Punjab following violence indulged in by the followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
The punishment of Gurmeet Ram in rape case has not lessened his troubles as still there are two murder cases pending against him and final verdict would come by the end of the year. He is allegedly involved in the murder case of journalist Chhatarpati who was exposing the deeds of Baba and murder of one Inderjit Singh who was a close loyalist of Baba and he was got killed as he was allegedly exposing the sexual exploits of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
Baba is also facing charges of castrating five hundred youngmen and the case is the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Besides, more and more sensational revelations are being made by the former employeed of the Baba.
The Dera Sacha Sauda is also going to witness struggle for succession at Sirsa. Baba’s family had been ignored by him but it has also come forward and staked the claim of headship of Dera. Baba has two sons and three daughters. There is one ‘adopted’ daughter of Baba also acted in his pictures with him. He made pictures MSG (Messenger of God) and earned huge money out of the same.
The Dera Sacha Sauda is all set to witness interesting developments and which political party supports the claimants only time will tell.
KS Chawla is a senior journalist based at Ludhiana.
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