Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh exploited scores of female disciples but the tortured victims stayed silent due to a feeling of “community shame”, says the woman who dared to challenge the self-styled godman. But she and her family had to cope with countless threats and mental pressure for 15 years, the victim says. To add tragedy to trauma, her brother was murdered.
Now, with Ram Rahim Singh behind bars, sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with the sexual exploitation of the victim and another woman, an atmosphere of jubilation prevails in a village along the GT road, around 10 kms from here. The victim, whose family lives here, said that they had been connected with the Dera for 40 years since Baba Satnam Singh was its head.
She was teaching in a school being run by the Dera and the real face of the sect chief Ram Rahim Singh stood exposed before her in 1999 when she came to know that innocent girls were being sexually abused. Girls were deployed as security persons at the entrance of a ‘Guffa’ (cave) where the Dera chief used to stay and she too was deployed there, the victim said.
She started noticing that some of the girls coming out of the ‘Guffa’ would be weeping. Later, the Dera chief eyed her and she was sexually exploited, the woman claimed. She disclosed it to her parents who were aware of the the Dera chief’s power and sent her back to their village. Later, the entire family left the Dera in 2001. The victim said the family remained under mental pressure for the last 15 years and received numerous threats.
“The Dera chief sexually abused a large number of girls but they kept silent due to community shame,” she told PTI. The victim claimed that when the CBI started probing the case on the basis of an anonymous letter, she got her statement recorded so that the Dera chief gets punished for his misdeeds.
FAMILY AWAIT JUSTICE IN MURDER CASE
However, it was not just the crime against the woman that her family had to cope with. Her brother, was shot dead in 2002, allegedly by the Dera chief’s henchmen on suspicions that he was behind an anonymous letter to the prime minister of India and the chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court alleging sexual exploitation of female disciples by the Dera chief.
It was this letter that led to a CBI probe into the matter in which Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh became an accused. Family members and relatives expressed satisfaction over the judgement that put the powerful Dera chief behind bars. It was a long battle but the family were convinced from the beginning that ultimately justice would prevail, said the slain man’s brother-in-law.
We had full faith in the judiciary and hope that a stringent sentence would be given to the Dera chief in murder case as well as in connection with the killing of Ram Chander Chhatarpati, a Sirsa based journalist, he added. He also hoped that after this judgement, more victims of the “powerful” Dera chief would come forward to expose his atrocities.
The husband of the victim ‘sadhvi’ said the news of maximum jail term to the Dera chief had brought relief to the family which had been fighting a tough legal battle for over 15 years. With political regimes creating hurdles in the murder case since 2002, we had started believing that the Dera chief would manipulate any establishment, he said.
The CBI probe and the court verdict have reinstated our faith in the system, he added. Police protection have been provided to family in their village as well as to the victim ‘sadhvi’ in Kurukshetra.