Last year, these families lost their loved ones in the firing that took place in Panchkula and Sirsa. The dead were part of the crowd that went berserk in Sirsa and Panchkula on August 25, 2017, after the CBI court in Panchkula convicted Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on rape charges and he was taken into custody. A year later, while most of them are yet committed to the Dera, they have stopped visiting it. However, there are a few who realise that the Dera chief did not have any “divine powers” as projected by him. As many as 40 persons died that day in police firing. The government alleges they were among those setting fire to buildings.
Vinod, 21, resident of Sirsa, shot dead in Sirsa
“Usame divya shakti hoti to wo jail nahi jata (If he had divine powers, he would not have gone to the jail),” says Rameshwar Lal Rega, sitting outside his small house. Rameshwar lost his son Vinod, in Sirsa, in the last year’s violence. Youngest among his three siblings, Vinod was pursuing an electrician course from an Industrial Training Institute. “We have been dera followers for the last 15-16 years. But now we don’t go there any more. I believe people have come to know about his [dera chief’s] reality now,” says Rega. For family’s livelihood, he also sells gol-gappas on his rehri during evening hours. “People don’t know what happens inside such places [dera]. They join such places following one after another in the hope of miracles. I had advised Vinod not to go to the dera that day, but he did not listen to me and still went. He never came back,” Rega says, while calling the August 25 of last year the “black day” of his life.
Kala Singh, 48, resident of Preet Nagar Colony, Sirsa, shot dead in Sirsa
Kamaljeet Kaur, 50, gets emotional when she looks at the picture of her husband Kala Singh. Kamaljeet lives with her daughter Gurpreet Kaur. A few months before his death, Kala Singh had bought an autorickshaw after taking loan from a bank. “After his death, the bank staff took away his autorickshaw as we could not pay remaining instalments. We don’t have any source of income. Dera provides ration to us, apart from other expenditure including college fee of my daughter Gurpreet. Dera had also given me a financial aid of Rs 1 lakh,” says Kamaljeet Kaur. Gurpreet is a student of BA final year of local JCD Vidhyapeeth. She says, “I have full faith in the dera. I had also studied in the dera’s school till class 12th”.
Wazir Singh Kamboj, 47, resident of Preet Sagar colony, Sirsa, shot dead in Sirsa
There is almost no wall in Wazir Singh’s house that does not have dera chief’s pictures. The house is in Preet Sagar colony, located near the dera’s headquarters. “We don’t want to talk anything about the incident. We don’t want anything either from the dera or the government. We have agriculture land for our livelihood,” says his son, refusing to even give his name. When asked if the family still follows the dera, a female member of the family said, “We have always been followers of the dera.”
Aman Kumar, 22, resident of village Tahliwala Bodla, Fazilka, Punjab, shot dead in Panchkula
Aman’s father Milkh Raj says,”We had been dera followers for decades. Death of my son has shaken me completely. He used to be the bread winner for us. He he was running a mobile shop on rent. Now, I crop-seed in the same shop to earn a meal for my family. We do ‘nam simran’ given by our Guru [dera chief], but we have stopped going to the dera. Although Aman died supporting the dera chief, nobody from the dera came forward to help our family after his death.” Milkh Raj’s elder son lives in a separate house while his daughter is yet to get married.
Lovepreet Singh, 15, resident of village Kheri, Muktsar, shot dead in Panchkula
Kaka Singh, Lovepreet’s father, says, “We are Amritdhari Sikhs, but my sister’s family follows dera. Lovepreet had gone to Ganganagar to stay with her for a few days. From there, he went to Satsang at Panchkula. We had no idea he would never return. I have nothing to do with dera. Now my sister also does not follow dera.” Kaka runs a small roadside stall outside village Gurdwara and sells utensils, prasad etc to earn a living. Lovepreet was a school drop-out and used to help his father at the shop.
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