On Friday, counsel for Malvinder Singh, a former promoter of Religare Enterprises Ltd, told a Delhi court that his client did not have a “single penny”, and accused investigators of not arresting the “person to whose doorstep the money leads as he is heading a great religious organisation”. “This gentleman”, the counsel said, “runs an entity called Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) trust. He is a very powerful man and has high political relevance.” Malvinder Singh and his brother Shivinder Singh have been arrested for allegedly diverting funds and causing a loss of Rs 2,397 crore to Religare Finvest Ltd (RFL), a subsidiary of Religare Enterprises Ltd. The brothers were followers of the RSSB at one time.
What is the Radha Soami Dera, and when was it founded?
According to the officials of the Dera Beas, the seed of today’s bustling dera was sown by Baba Jaimal Singh (1839-1903). He was a disciple of an Agra-based guru, and after retiring from the British Indian Army, he set up the dera Baba Jaimal Singh, a mud hut on the bank of the river Beas, 45 km from Amritsar, in 1891.
One hundred and twenty-eight years on, the dera today is a well laid-out township sprawled over 3,000 acres of land, home to some 18,000 people, complete with hostels, a shopping mall, and facilities for an aircraft to take off and land. It is the headquarters of the Radha Soami sect, which was registered as a non-profit society under the Societies Registration Act in October 1957.
Of the 3,000 acres of land at the dera, over 1,200 acres is dedicated to agriculture. The dera claims to have an installed solar power capacity of 19.5 MW, including a rooftop plant with panels spread over 42 acres and a capacity of 11.5 MW.
How many followers does the dera have, and where?
Dera officials claim there are around 20 million followers, spread over 90 countries all over the world. They say the dera has around 5,000 big and small centres across India and overseas. Some 18-20 of the bigger centres are spread over several hundred acres each.
The Beas centre is the largest, and is visited by some 12 million to 13 million followers every year, according to dera records. Some 2.5 lakh people can attend the satsang at the Beas dera at a time, it is said.
The dera has property worth around Rs 3,000 crore, which includes the land of its centres all over the world, and three large hospitals. The dera regularly purchases land for new centres.
Who heads the dera?
The “gentleman” referred to in the Delhi court is Baba Gurinder Singh Dhillon, the fifth and current head of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas. He became the head of the dera in 1990, and lives in Beas.
Baba Jaimal Singh, the first head of the dera chose Baba Sawan Singh, a civil engineer by profession, to be his successor. Baba Sawan Singh, who remained the dera head from 1903 to 1948, was followed by Baba Jagat Singh (1948 to 1951), and Baba Charan Singh (1951 to 1990).
Is Radha Soami a religion?
According o the dera officials, it is a spiritual organisation that respects the teachings of all religions, and is dedicated to “inner development” under the guidance of a spiritual leader (Guru).
The dera’s philosophy is of “selfless service and voluntarism”. Its followers are taught not to be a burden on anyone, and to achieve spiritual goals through meditation and satsang (spiritual discourse). They believe in practising “naamdaan”, which is given by the spiritual guru for daily practice, and to invoke their inner voice.
Followers of the dera believe in doing their work themselves, and even in the Beas dera, all works, including construction, is carried out by dera vounlteeers.
Does the dera have any political affiliations?
The Radha Soami Satsang Beas has never expressed its political and commercial affiliations openly. However, leaders of all political parties, including the Congress, SAD-BJP, and AAP, visit the dera during elections. Several politicians are its followers. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat too, visited the dera during his visit to Jalandhar last year.