Khatta Singh was a much relieved man on Friday. The former driver of rape convict Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was a prime CBI witness in the murder case of journalist Ram Chander Chhatarpati. Gurmeet Ram Rahim, the Dera Sacha Sauda, was on Friday found guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy in the case.
“I am satisfied with the court’s decision. All credit goes to the journalist’s son, Anshul Chhatarpati, and the probe officer, SP Satish Dagar, who did not succumb to any pressure while pursuing the case against Gurmeet Ram Rahim. I cannot explain how much my family and I have suffered over the years after I quit the Dera in 2007 and agreed to record my statement against the accused persons,” said Khatta Singh, 61.
Khatta Singh was present in the court when special CBI delivered the judgment holding the Dera head and his three followers guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy. Khatta Singh’s statement proved crucial in nailing Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
Khatta Singh’s testimony that Dera manager Krishan Lal had handed over his walkie-talkie set and his licensed pistol to the two other accused, Kuldeep Singh and Nirmal Singh, in his (Khatta Singh’s) presence proved vital in proving the guilt of the four accused,” CBI counsel HPS Verma said.
Recalling the sequence of events Khatta Singh said, “On October 23, 2002, Gurmeet Ram Rahim returned after attending a gathering of his followers in Jalandhar when then Dera manager, Krishan Lal, showed him the newspaper ‘Poora Sach’. The paper, owned by Ram Chander Chhatarpati, carried a report accusing Gurmeet Ram Rahim of sexually exploiting women at the Dera. Kuldeep Singh and Nirmal Singh were also with Krishan Lal. Gurmreet Ram Rahim lost his cool and ordered to ‘silence the voice of the man’ behind the newspaper. Next day, on October 24, 2002, I received a call from my house that the journalist had been shot at”.
Khatta Singh says he “received numerous blood-stained threat letters” from Dera followers during the course of the trial. He was provided security cover by the Punjab Police. Incidentally, Khatta Singh had in 2012 changed the statement he gave against the Dera chief in 2007. He later wanted to record a fresh statement but a CBI court in Panchkula declined his request. In 2017, he moved Punjab and Haryana high court through advocate Navkiran Singh. The high court allowed him to record his fresh statement in the trial court. Later, the defense counsel of the accused challenged the high court decision in apex court, which rejected the plea of defense.