It was around 7:45 pm on October 24, 2002, when Anshul Chattarpati, 20, and his family sat down for dinner at their residence in Sirsa that they heard gunshots. They rushed outside and found Anshul’s father Ram Chander Chattarpati lying on the ground. Chattarpati was rushed to hospital but he succumbed to injuries in a few days.
Anshul, in an interview with The Indian Express, tells that his father had told them that ‘Baba Gurmeet Singh’ was behind the attack on him as he had exposed the Dera chief and the illegal activities at the Sirsa Dera in his regional newspaper “Poora Sach”. Thus started Anshul’s 17-year-long battle for justice.
On Friday, the CBI court in Panchkula convicted Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim and three others.
Excerpts from the interview.
How do you react to the conviction of Gurmeet Ram Rahim?
We have struggled for a long time against such an influential person. A devil who covered his face with ‘santgiri’ and religion. It was not a small task to expose him. The governments at the Centre and many states wanted to shelter him. Despite that, we kept struggling. We faced a lot of hardships. He used each and every tactic to delay the investigation and trial of the case. Despite all these obstacles, some people were doing their duty with honesty. Witnesses recorded their statements without selling their soul to anyone.
Were you offered money for a compromise?
No direct offer was made to us. However, indirectly, it was conveyed by some politicians that money is a great healer. These efforts to compromise were made indirectly with arguments such as the family has already suffered a loss and no risk of another loss should be taken.
How much money was quoted in these offers?
We were not told about the money directly. However, once somebody told me that you are being valued at Rs 5 crore. I never tried to search who had made that offer.
When were you given police protection?
We were given police protection in 2007 when CBI submitted its challan to the court. Then the CBI wrote to the Haryana DGP recommending police security to the main witnesses.
Had the Haryana Police conducted a probe in the case, what do you think would have happened?
The Haryana Police is capable to probe the cases had there been no pressure on them. I salute those policemen of the Haryana Police who caught one of the shooters on the spot. Had he not been caught, probably this case would not have reached this stage. Nobody would have accepted that the Dera was behind the attack on my father. We raised questions on the police probe because the (then) state government, on the behest of Dera Sacha Sauda, was putting pressure on the police. The CBI also faced pressure but conducted a thorough investigation and named the Dera chief as the main conspirator in its chargesheet. I also salute the CBI officers and their team.
What was the biggest pressure you faced in this battle?
Our opponent was influential and money was not a problem for them. He was capable of buying anybody. “Hamari bhi boli lagayi gayi, CBI officers ki bhi lagayi gayi, gawahon ki bhi lagayi gayi (They tried to buy us all, CBI officers and the witnesses too).” But it was a good thing that the CBI officers and witnesses cooperated with us fully.
You fought such a long battle. Would you get disturbed sometimes?
Not at all. When I moved from my home in 2003 with an aim to get justice for my father’s martyrdom, I never found myself alone. I got full support from my family. The media played an important role initially. We got full support from lawyers such as Lekh Raj, Ashwini Bakshi, Rajiv Godara, senior advocate R S Cheema, Rajender Sachhar who fought this case like it was their duty.
What was the biggest strength for you during this battle?
We got honsala (strength) in legacy, it’s in our blood. My father never lost hope. We learnt all this from him. He sacrificed his life. He had no personal enmity with Gurmeet Ram Rahim but despite that, he took a daring step to expose the Dera chief. When we felt that the government was under pressure and the police were not conducting a fair probe (in the murder case), then advocate Lekh Raj took my hand and said “nothing will happen by sitting idle.” He told me we have to move a petition in the High Court to seek a CBI probe. In all the 16 years since then, he has supported me.
What do you do for your livelihood?
I could not complete my graduation because of my father’s murder. For livelihood, we just rely on my father’s 20 acres of agricultural land.