Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh+ was found guilty of rape by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana, on Friday. He was immediately taken into judicial custody; he will be sentenced on Monday.
The Dera head was present in court when the judgment was read out.
A rape conviction carries a minimum sentence of seven years and a maximum of 10 years.
Soon after the Dera chief’s conviction, followers pelted stones and broke barricades following which police lobbed tear gas shells and fired in the air.Immediately after the verdict, many Dera followers including large number of women started crying.Some followers went berserk and also allegedly damaged OB vans of a private TV channel.Police lobbed tear gas shells, used water canons and batons in an attempt to bring the situation under control
The Dera followers pelted stones and broke security cordon.
The court delivered its verdict in the case against the 50-year-old Dera chief after 14 long years and amid unprecedented security as thousands of Dera followers gathered in Panchkula ahead of the judgment.
In fact, just two hours before the verdict, the Punjab and Haryana high court told the Haryana government it can go ahead and use force when required and file FIRs against any Gurmeet Ram Rahim follower breaking the law or making provocative statements.
Haryana’s chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said on Friday his government was ready to deal with any fallout from the verdict.
“Whatever the verdict, will implement it. Ready to deal with any circumstances, security arrangements are in place, I appeal for peace and calm,” said Khattar.
The charges against Gurmeet Ram Rahim date back to 2002, when a Dera sadhvi wrote an anonymous letter to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee saying she was raped by the Dera chief. In the letter, the sadhvi also accused Gurmeet Ram Rahim of raping several other female followers inside the sprawling Dera campus on the outskirts of Sirsa in the state of Haryana.
Ahead of the verdict on Friday, Army columns moved into Panchkula early in the morning. As well, around 53 companies of the paramilitary forces and 50,000 personnel of the Haryana Police were deployed in the states of Haryana and Punjab.
The 50-year-old Gurmeet Ram Rahim left the sect-headquarters at Sirsa, about 260km from Chandigarh, at about 9am, in a huge convoy. The Haryana director general of police (DGP) was asked if there were 200-plus vehicles in the Dera chief’s convoy. He didn’t confirm that number but did say that the convoy size would be cut en route to Panchkula.
“Only a couple of cars which include escort vehicles will be allowed,” said BS Sandhu, the Haryana DGP.
In 2002, the Punjab and Haryana high court took suo motu cognizance – action of its own accord – of the sadhvi’s letter to then PM Vajpayee, and directed the CBI to register a sexual exploitation case against the Dera chief in 2002. The case was then handed over to the CBI.
The investigating agency questioned 18 sadhvis and two of them leveled allegations of rape against the spiritual leader.Their statements are part of the CBI chargesheet which was filed on July 30, 2007, in the CBI special court.
One of the sadhvis said in her statement, that when she entered the Dera chief’s sprawling chamber, the doors automatically closed and she found him watching a pornographic movie on a big screen. The CBI is said to be banking heavily on this statement as only a select few have access to that chamber.