Ram Rahim heads to court, army and security tightened in Panchkuli

North India’s controversial, self styled god man has just arrived is to hear the verdict on rape claims made by two of his followers today. After 200 hearings spread over 10 years and numerous stay orders of higher courts, a CBI special trial court in Panchkula is set to decide the fate of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, accused of raping his female followers. The hearing is expected to begin at 2.30 pm today.

In a show of strength, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who heads the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, is travelling in a convoy of more than a 100 cars from his headquarters in Haryana’s Sirsa to Panchkula. Over a lakh of his followers are camped in Panchkula, just 11 km from Chandigarh, triggering concerns of violence. There is massive police security; the Army has been called in and is monitoring the situation with the state government. Since Wednesday, parts of Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh have been under a security lock down as 200,000 supporters of Ram Rahim massed in Panchkula ahead of the verdict.

Schools, colleges and government offices remain closed, and train and bus services have been curtailed. The army is on standby, while police and paramilitary forces are patrolling sensitive areas. Mobile internet and data services have been suspended in Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh for 72 hours.

Ram Rahim’s early life

Born in August 1967, Ram Rahim comes from a Jat Sikh family of Gurusar Modiya village in Sriganganagar district of Rajasthan. He was initiated into the sect at a tender age of seven by his predecessor Shah Satnam Singh Maharaj.

He was anointed the sect head when he was barely 23. Having married early, the dera head is said to have sacrificed his personal life for public service, and thus not much is known about it. The story regarding his initiation and gradual ascendancy from a follower to the master has been chronicled by the Dera.

It is told that the sect’s first mater Shah Mastana, in his last spiritual discourse in 1960, had indicated that seven years later he would reincarnate as the third master of the sect.

Initially the followers could not grasp his remarks. However, a parallel was drawn after the sangat (followers) found that Ram Rahim was born in 1967. The dera account describes Ram Rahim as a ‘child prodigy’. It says he excelled in everything and even learnt driving when he was eight. Devout followers swear that though Ram Rahim studied up to high school, his spiritual powers ensured that he excelled in multiple tasks.

Controversial past

Ram Rahim’s first brush with controversy was in 2002 when an anonymous letter, purportedly written by a sadhvi, alleged sexual exploitation of woman followers in the dera. The alleged incident took place in 1999. An FIR was registered in 2002. The Dera chief and the management of the sect have denied the allegations all throughout. The matter was probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the verdict in the case will be pronounced today. The central agency is also investigating into more cases involving Ram Rahim. These include the alleged murder of a dera disciple, Ranjit Singh, who had reportedly spoken against the dera head, a murder case pertaining to the killing of a Sirsa-based journalist, Ram Chander Chhatarpati whose ‘Poora Sach’ vernacular was vociferous about dera’s “unlawful activities.”


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