Self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Friday found guilty in a rape case by a CBI court in Panchkula, triggering widespread violence across Haryana, which left at least 30 people dead and over 250 injured. The quantum of the sentence would be pronounced on Monday. Scores of followers wreaked havoc on the streets and went on the rampage, setting ablaze vehicles, buildings and railway stations. The case dates back to 2002 when the Punjab and Haryana High Court had referred the matter to the CBI after receiving an anonymous letter purportedly written by a sadhvi (woman follower).
In the letter addressed to then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Haryana CM and host of other top institutions, the sadhvi accused the Dera Sacha Sauda chief of raping her and other sadhvis and pleaded for an inquiry. As per a report in the Hindustan Times, Sadhvi said she along with 40-45 other girls had been doing service in the dera for years. She said Ram Rahim had called her into his residence inside the dera, two years after she had become a sadhvi and was threatened before he raped her. He was watching television with a revolver lying besides him, according to the letter.
Recounting her ordeal, she said she was repeatedly raped by the dera chief, who boasted that no authority can initiate proceeding against him. In the letter, she wrote that it was only after a point of time that she came to know that other women followers were also sexually exploited before and after her.
Concluding the letter, the woman had sought the intervention of the then prime minister and the courts. She refrained from her revealing her identity, saying that it would invite trouble for her and family members.
Before referring the matter for a CBI investigation, the high court had taken a report on the matter from the District and Sessions Judge of Sirsa. Subsequently, the CBI had succeeded in locating two sadhvis who deposed before a trial court that the dera chief sexually exploited them. In 2008, a CBI court then ordered framing of rape charges against Ram Rahim.