Thousands of followers congregated at Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters here on Wednesday, two days ahead of the scheduled verdict by a CBI court in Panchkula in a rape case against the dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
Spread over 1,000 acres, the dera is a township of its own, with its hotel, cinema hall, cricket stadium, multi-specialty hospital, two schools, sports village, a studio, a printing press where a newspaper is printed, a bio-gas plant, apart from a large chunk of land being used for agriculture purposes.
Nobody can meet the 50-year-old dera chief without a prior, vetted appointment. It is rare for him to meet journalists. The government has provided him Z-category security, plus he has his own.
There is a lot of construction inside the dera. Outside, there is a market of 40 shops being run by dera followers.
“We came here for Guruji, we can do anything for him,” says Harpal Singh, a labourer, who has arrived from Hijrawan Kalan village of Fatehabad district in Haryana. Harpal, who is from Bazigar caste, a Scheduled Caste community, claimed he left his drinking habit after he became a follower of the dera.
Ikbal Singh (23) is also from a poor Scheduled Caste family from Hakamwala village in Mansa district. “You know well why we have come here. We are here because of the case against Guruji,” says the student of Guru Nanak College in Budhlada in Mansa district.
“We all came here in support of Pitaji,”said Gagandeep Kaur (21), who has completed her Bsc in nursing and belongs to a Jatt Sikh family village Mehta in Barnala district, using the honorific by which followers refer to the dera chief. “He is being harassed without any reasons,” she said.
A dera follower deployed outside the dera said, “They (government authorities) should not make a mistake by equating us with Rampal (another sect head). They should understand we have support from all communities.”
There is an anticipation of violence hanging over the dera. While many followers are engaged in daily chores at the langar or transporting material in tractors to secure the fort-like dera, several hundred followers were gathered under a large pandal in the dera.
Over the mike, someone is chanting “Dhan-Dhan Satguru-Tera Hi Asra”, and saying that all were ready to go to Panchkula in support of their 50-year-old guru.
A dera functionary told The Indian Express that “the premis (dera followers) can do anything in case of any adverse outcome in the case”. But officially, the dera management chooses its words carefully. “People are angry because of whatever have happened in the past with us. It is difficult to control emotions of anybody,” said dera spokesperson Dr Dilawar Singh.
“We can’t say anything about the allegations against Guruji at this stage. We have been following the judicial process and will continue. The panic has been created by deploying paramilitary forces,” he said. “The dera followers have moved to Panchkula after a statement by Haryana Chief Minister that the dera chief would appear before the CBI court there,” said the dera spokesperson.
Ask the followers individually how they will react if the court convicts their guru, their reply is the same: “Hame Majboor Kiya to Kurkshetra ka Maidan Bana Denge”. In an attempt to prevent violence in Sirsa, Senior Citizen Network Association has launched a campaign in the town to maintain peace. “There may be innocent youths who can be misguided easily. We are asking them not to indulge in emotional acts,” says Lal Chand Godara, district unit president of the association and a retired Army man.
Meanwhile, Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said that State had got eight additional companies of paramilitary forces and an additional force of 2,500 police personnel from internal sources had also been mobilized for deployment in different parts of the state. About 2,000 Home Guards have been called to join duty to manage crowds and adequate arrangements have been made to deal with any situation in the state. In reply to a question, he said the government would also call in the Army, if necessary, impose curfew according to time and circumstances and initiate all steps required to maintain law and order in the state on August 25 when the court announces its verdict in the case in which the dera chief is accused of raping two of his women followers.
When asked if Dera chief will appear before the court in Panchkula on Friday, a spokesman of Dera Sacha Sauda said the sect and its head had always followed law and will do so in future also. “We have always followed due process of law, never have we gone out of law’s purview and never ever will we do so,” he said.
Asked if Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh will appeal to his followers to help maintain law and order and peace, he said, “during his Satsangs (at sect head in Sirsa) in mornings and evenings, Guru ji always talks about humanity and things which will benefit humanity. He talks about tree plantation, organ donations, blood donation and helping out weaker sections”.