A CBI court sentenced the self-styled Godman and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to ten years imprisonment on Monday. On August 25, Singh was convicted of rape following which there was widespread violence across Haryana and Punjab leaving over 38 persons dead. Apart from claiming to be a Godman and social reformer, the Dera chief is also famous for his stints as a rock musician, actor and filmmaker and is believed to have used these means of entertainment to keep the youth away from social evils particularly drugs and alcohol. From the world records made by the Dera under Singh to his support to BJP that led to the party’s victory in Haryana, here are ten things you need to know about Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
# The Dera chief is also a rock musician. His albums include High way Love Charger, Network tere love ka and Love rabb se among others. His album High way Lover Charger was reported to have sold a record 3 million copies in just three days.
# Followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh say he has brought about a paradigm shift in music across several genres, and uses it to send a positive message to youth to keep away from evils including alcoholism, drugs and immorality.
# Under his leadership, the dera has registered several world records including the largest volume of blood donated in a single day, trees planted , even “coins thrown up in air” towards donating Re 1 daily for humanitarian causes.
# The dera chief made his debut in films in February 2015 in the movie titled “MSG: The Messenger.” MSG stands for ‘Messenger of God.” The film was reported to be a mix of spirituality and entertainment, with a social message in the end. The storyline for the movie was given by Singh and was funded by the dera itself. Through the movie, the Dera had planned to reach the international audience. Speaking about his film to the Indian Express Singh said that “I want to teach the youth that if, by keeping away from alcoholism and drugs, a 47-year old man can do all this, imagine the power they have at their disposal.”
# The Dera’s website describes him as “author”, “inventor”, “agriculturist”, “scientist”, “athlete”, “multi-lingual orator”, “scholar”, “director”, “musician”, and “de-addiction specialist”, among other things, referring to him reverentially as “Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan”.
# By 2015, the sect had 46 ashrams across the country. Since 1990, when Gurmeet Ram Rahim took over, the Dera has spread to , among others, Baghpat (Uttar Pradesh); Kangra (Himachal Pradesh); Delhi; Sriganganagar, Hanumangarh, Kota, Bikaner, Udaipur and Jaipur (Rajasthan); Sihor (Madhya Pradesh); Korba (Chhattisgarh); Satara (Maharashtra); Bhuj (Gujarat); Mysore (Karnataka); and Puri (Orissa).
# In 2014, the Dera had claimed that it had a following of over 5 crore people, including 25 lakh in Haryana.
# In Haryana, the Dera’s support was considered to be very important for BJP to achieve victory. Reportedly, on the eve of the election, senior BJP leaders including party president Amit Shah and Union minister Sushma Swaraj personally met Gurmeet Ram Rahim to seek his support. In the elections, While the BJP could not win any seat in Sirsa and Fatehabad districts, the Dera’s main stronghold, the party’s vote share here showed a rise.
# The Sirsa headquarter of the Dera is like a township. It has shops over a 2 km-long stretch, a housing complex, a hospital, and industrial and manufacturing units, run by followers of Singh.
# Followers of the Dera chief include Bollywood actor Manisha Koirala, cricketers Virat Kohli, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Yusuf Pathan, Shikhar Dhawan and Praveen Kumar.” Boxer Vijender is also learnt to have taken help after he was named in the drug-trafficking controversy.