By FutureLaw Desk
A special court of CBI in Panchkula, Haryana held self-proclaimed guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of raping his female followers. Gurmeet Singh is the leader of Dera Sacha Sauda (colloquially DSS), a self proclaimed “non-profit social welfare and spiritual organisation” based in Haryana, India.
Gurmeet Singh was accused of raping two female followers in a case dating back to 2002 at the headquarters of DSS in the town of Sirsa, Haryana. Singh will be taken to a jail in the town of Rohtak until his sentence is announced on Monday, a prosecution lawyer said.
Immediately after the conviction, deadly violence erupted in different parts of DSS strongholds as the followers took to the streets and started armed protesting. As of now, casualty of 29 people has been confirmed with injury of over hundreds.
Read live updates of the situation by Hindustan Times.
Earlier, Gurmeet Sing who introduce himself as Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, left his ashram in a 100-vehicle convoy to appear in court in the town of Panchkula in the north Indian state of Haryana. More than 100,000 people had gathered near the court premises ahead of the verdict.
As a strict security measure, parts of Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh have been under a security lockdown since Wednesday. Mobile internet and data services have been suspended in Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh for 72 hours.
Background of the case
The rape allegations against Gurmeet Singh came into light when a Dera sadhvi (female devotee living at DSS comound) wrote an anonymous letter to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee saying she was raped by the Dera chief. In that letter, the sadhvi also accused Gurmeet Ram Rahim of raping several other female followers inside the sprawling DSS campus on the outskirts of Sirsa city, Haryana.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu cognizance of the sadhvi’s letter and directed the CBI to register a sexual exploitation case against the Dera chief in 2002. Based on the letter, the CBI then registered a case against Gurmeet Singh.
The trial commenced in 2008 and on September 6, 2008, where Gurmeet Singh was charged under Section 376 (rape) and Section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
Other cases against Gurmeet Singh
Gurmeet Singh is also facing trial in two separate murder cases – those of DSS follower Ranjit Singh in July 2002 and of journalist Ram Chander Chattrapati in October that same year. Chattrapati had reported extensively on illegal activities going on within the DSS campus, including publicizing the anonymous letter.
Besides the rape charges, Singh was also under investigation over allegations that he convinced 400 of his male followers to undergo castration. Allegedly 400 followers of the sect have been castrated inside the sect’s headquarters to “bring them closer to god”. According to the CBI, the castrations were done to “safeguard” woman from “possible sexual advances”. He is also accused of murder of his followers, which is also under investigation.
However, one of the victims came forward and filed a complaint in court against the guru.