On 25th August the so-called “godman” was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment for committing rape of his disciples in the year 2002. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Insaan as he is popularly known by his followers is said to be the most supported individual for the Padma Awards 2017 which is quite astonishing given the fact that all the supporters who backed him for the prestigious award, knew his criminal record. His journey from a sevak (volunteer) to the Rockstar baba has been nothing less than the mega masala movies he writes and directs.
His organization works for a number of social causes, which includes the welfare of orphans, transgenders, sex workers and tribal’s. The organization also strives for social causes like cleanliness campaigns, blood donation drives, tree planting and disaster relief.
The conviction of the accused took around fifteen years, which means that the rape victims have to wait for a long period to see the culprit behind the bars. The delay in delivering justice is one of the hot topics in the country but the peculiarity of this case lies in how a so-called ‘messiah’ or a chief of a religious organization which claims so much popularity was able to mislead all of his disciples. To understand how Gurmeet Ram Rahim deceived his followers who devoted their lives to him, let’s take a glimpse at the organization he led and some lesser known facts of his life which never saw the daylight.
What Is Dera Saccha Sauda (DSS)
Currently, the most controversial non-profit organization in the country, Dera Saccha Sauda according to its website claims to be a religious and non-profit organization. Established by Mastana Baloochistani in the year 1969 the institution is estimated to have more than 60 million followers which taught NAAM method of meditation where people accepted three principles that are:-
- No consumption of meat, egg etc.
- No consumption of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco
- No adultery or illicit sex.
The Dera strives for making India as a caste-free society. It is one of the projects started by the current chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim and one of the peculiar custom which is practiced since ages is that during the Satsang, the Guru of the Dera sits beneath Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Christian symbols which are organised in a way that depicts him as the union of these religions, and it is also depicted in the tagline which says “confluence of all religions”.
Despite having such commonplace beliefs, this organization enjoys popularity among the states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Though the official website of Dera Saccha Sauda does not explicitly mention the funding, in 2009 a research was conducted by Jacob Copeman which highlighted the asset ownership of DSS ranging from a petrol pump to a supermarket and 38 ashrams in the northern parts of the country. Dera Sacha Sauda is the only Dera, which openly asks its supporters to vote for particular political parties. Previously, it was the Congress government which, provided Z-plus security for the group’s leader, and in return enjoyed the organization’s support. But there has been a change in the political backing of the group since 2014 Lok Sabha and Haryana Assembly polls and has now thrown the weight behind the ruling government. The organization supported BJP in the Bihar assembly polls in 2015 were approximately 3000 Dera followers campaigned for BJP.
History of Ram Rahim
After being named as one of the 100 most powerful Indians in 2015 by the Indian Express, Ram Rahim becomes the third saint who is convicted of a criminal charge. At the age of seven, he joined DSS because of his devotion towards the group and worked as a Sevak (volunteer). When Satnam Singh, the then chief of Dera announced his retirement, Ram was definitely not one of the three contenders for the post but surprisingly in a public meeting Satnam announced Gurmeet Ram Rahim as the new chief of Dera Saccha Sauda and gave him the title “Huzoor Maharaj Gurmeet Ram Rahim”. Thus he became the chief of DSS at the age of 23. What made him choose Singh over other experienced members, is still a mystery.
To many surprises, Dera Saccha Sauda as a religious group has grown under Singh, the popularity in the form of disciples and followers, which it enjoys today is only because of its chief. In the year 1990 when Singh became chief of the group, it had some thousand followers and in the year 2015, the number jumped to 60 million not only in India but across the globe. One of the strangest things about the followers of the group is that they regard themselves as followers of Ram Rahim first, the idea and belief of DSS come later, and this is only because of his charisma. But it is not because of his charm or the ailments he is regarded as God but there is more to it. The caste-based discrimination is quite rampant in Punjab and Haryana which have 20%-30% Dalits. Punjab is the state with the highest percentage of Scheduled Caste population in the country. Since a large chunk of the population faces extreme caste discrimination it makes both the states a fertile ground for Babas. As the Dalit population has remained disappointed for far too long in religious matters, Dera Sacha Sauda and Gurmeet Ram Rahim offered dignity to their disciples. He asked his followers to shun their family surnames of centuries and adopt the new one as ‘Insan’ (human being) to end caste inequality. The Dera Sacha Sauda of Ram Rahim provided food, ration, education, free medical services and money for various social rituals to poor. This won him the strong allegiance of the large disadvantaged group. Also, he promotes his agendas of caste discrimination through social media which has made him a ‘Rockstar Baba’. He has also released his trilogy named MSG (Messenger of God).
Ram Rahim: Not a Rapist
Since the initiation of rape proceedings, the whole country regarded the ‘Rockstar Baba’ as a rapist and this was not the first time that a baba was dragged into the courtroom, last year the infamous Asaram Bapu was also convicted of committing rape of her disciple which compelled most Indians to believe that Ram Rahim would be found guilty. Now a rape convict, Ram Rahim also stands charged with two murders one of Ranjit Singh, the brother of the rape survivors and the other of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati, who exposed Ram Rahim’s illegal activities. But there lies another untold story of a murder case which is still pending in the Punjab and Haryana High court which accuses Ram Rahim of committing murder of Fakir Chand who went missing in 1990.
The Untold Story of Fakir Chand
Fakir Chand was the manager of Dera Saccha Sauda and who was residing there for past 25 years. There were some rumors of some friction between him and the newly elected chief and in 1991 he was reported missing. One of his close friends Ram Kumar Bishnoi who was also a follower of Dera filed a complaint with police. In an interview, he told that for months he didn’t know that Fakir was missing because he wasn’t going to Dera. When he finally went to Dera and found that Fakir was last seen there and suddenly went missing he approached the police authorities.
For several years, there was no response from the police, some years later a TV channel in a sting operation found that one Gobind Singh and a driver of Dera are responsible for committing the murder on the directions of Ram Rahim.
On the petition filed by Ram Kumar in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a preliminary inquiry was initiated by CBI in 2009. During the investigation, Gobind Singh accepted what he had said in the written statement.
After conducting the inquiry CBI registered a case against Ram Rahim and four other including Gobind Singh in 2010. But the case took a turn when suddenly the investigating officer Satish Dagar was replaced by BS Dogra who ultimately closed the investigation in 2010.
In response to the closure report filed by the CBI, Ram Kumar Bishnoi filed a petition in the High Court demanding re-investigation into the case. The petition said:
When accused Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh saw the inquiry going against him, (he) started complaining against Satish Dagar (the first investigating CBI officer) and put political pressure on higher authorities of CBI to hand over the investigation to some other officer who can toe the line according to his wishes.
Now, whether there was a delinquency on the part of authorities or it is Ram Rahim who being a religious guru controls the police and the Judiciary, this is yet to be answered.
Sainthood To Be Reviewed
One of biggest issue that was highlighted during the whole Ram Rahim case was the growing number of people who camouflage as Babas or Saints and are able to amass large chunk of people in the name of religion or faith. Also, the constitutional safeguards available to these imposters help them gain mass popularity among the people by just displaying superstitions. Thus Hindu spiritual leaders and saffron groups have decided to put in place a mechanism of scrutiny and a degree of standardization. Over the years, several spiritual leaders have been accused of sexually abusing followers, amassing untaxed money and finding favor with politicians. Many of them enjoy immense influence for their ability to mobilize millions of supporters.
Joint general secretary of Vishva Hindu Parishad, Swami Vigyananand in a recent program displayed his support for the review system and “cited the example of Shankaracharya who had to go through a series of disputations and discussions before his authority could be stamped. His fabled encounter with Mandana Mishra is an example. Sources say the Akhara Parishad has already prepared a list of fake babas and gurus which would be made public in September when the ABAP meets in Allahabad.”
Now the citizens of the country have to decide whether they are still going to believe in the babas or sainthood which has till date duped thousands of people across the country. People have to decide whether they want to lead a life full of myths and superstitions or rationality and truth.