Dera Sacha Sauda
T. K. Rajalakshmia
- Charnjit Singh Bal
Dera Sacha Sauda Sirsa- of Sexual Orgies, Intrigues and Series of Murders
The exposure started in May 2003 when on the insistence of her parents an educated girl of Bathinda offered her services to the Dera. After rendering a few months of service in the kitchen etc. she fell in the notice of dera chief Parm Sant Ram Rahim Gurmit Singh Maharaj.
Then on one day the girl was asked that it was her turn to render personal services to the Dera Chief. When she entered the private room of Baba she noticed a pistol laying on the bed and a blue movie was on the TV. When she respectfully protested Maharaj then questioned, "Did Krishan Bhagwan not played with the Gopis" and that "You are a fortunate girl to be selected as my gopi." What could the innocent girl do in that situation?
But later she secretly drafted a detailed letter on the activities of Maharaj and sent it to Prime Minister and other concerned authorities. The letter was also published in the Des Sewak of Chandigarh. The following day Dera managed all newspaper by inserting full-page advertisements i.e. the press was bribed.
The Dera representatives met the Prime Minister Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is said a prominent leader from Punjab helped them. In the meanwhile a local small time journalist continued his crusade and was murdered by the Dera people.
Some how a rebellion in the Dera erupted on the activities of sex- maniac, the Dera Chief and one Ranjit Singh a member of 10-member kitchen cabinet of
Dera was under suspicion. He was then allegedly murdered by Kishan lal another
member of the kitchen cabinet.
The Dera Sacha Sauda in Haryana and its head are under investigation in connection with the murder of a journalist and charges of sexual exploitation of women followers of the sect.
death, on November 21, of Ram Chandra Chatrapati, the 53-year-old editor of
Poora Sach (Complete Truth), an evening daily from Sirsa, Haryana, at the Apollo
Hospital in New Delhi went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media. On the
night of October 24, two men riding a motorcycle, claiming to be followers of a
religious sect called Dera Sacha Sauda, had shot at him four times from
sect, headquartered in Sirsa, claims a following of more than one crore people
and has branches in many States. The Master of the Dera is Gurmit Ram Rahim
Singh Ji, popularly known as Maharaj. The activities of the Dera attracted
attention in May after an anonymous letter alleging sexual exploitation by
Maharaj came to light. The issue was reported in several newspapers and
Chatrapati had consistently written about the Dera's activities since then. The
letter, written by a female disciple of Maharaj, or a sadhvi, was addressed to
the Prime Minister and its copies had been marked to the Union Home Minister,
the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Haryana Chief Minister, the Sirsa
Superintendent of Police, the National Human Rights Commission, newspapers and
women's and social organizations.
was alleged in the letter that several girls had been subject to exploitation.
The sadhvi stated that she was a graduate and had been in the Dera (spread over
700 acres, or 280 hectares) for the last five years. Her family, being very
religious, had sent her there to serve as a sadhvi. She alleged that Gurmit
Singh threatened to kill her if she reported the goings-on in the Dera to
anyone. He also boasted, as stated in the letter, about the influence he wielded
with politicians in Punjab and Haryana.
It is well known that leading politicians from both the States have visited the Dera to seek the blessings of Maharaj. Prominent among them are former Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala.
The letter alleged sexual exploitation of several girls, many of them having post-graduate and even M. Phil degrees. They were "leading a life in hell due to the superstitious nature and dead (blind) faith of their family members", it said, and added that many girls from Mansa, Ferozepur, Patiala and Ludhiana districts of Punjab had returned to their homes but kept quiet out of fear. The three-page letter in Hindi also detailed how a sadhvi from Bhatinda in Punjab, was beaten up by some of the rest of the sadhvis, when she tried to disclose the deeds of Maharaj. Some 45 girls were living in fear and insecurity but were ready to disclose everything in confidence, the letter stated.
On September 3, taking suo motu (?) notice of the letter, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the District and Sessions Judge to conduct an inquiry. In his report, the District and Sessions Judge suggested that the matter be investigated by a Central agency. The High Court, taking cognizance of the recommendation and the serious nature of allegations, referred the matter to the CBI on September 24 and directed it to submit a report within six months.
The CBI is bound to take a close look at the statements given to the police by the two men who were caught and handed over to the police by the public for allegedly shooting of Chatrapati. During questioning they reportedly said that they were Dera followers from Punjab and had been sent by Kishan Lal, a senior functionary of the Dera, to silence Chatrapati. Kishan Lal was also taken into custody.
Chatrapati battled for his life for 28 days, first at the Rohtak Medical College and then at the Apollo Hospital. In fact, several local journalists had received threats, but no one took serious note of them. However, Chatrapati did write to the Sirsa Superintendent of Police asking for protection.
Meanwhile, on November 3, the former sarpanch of Khanpur Koliyan in Kurukshetra district told newspersons that because of the anonymous letter his son had been murdered by followers of the Dera. The murder took place on July 10, he said, and claimed that when the police failed to nab the killers, he wrote to the Haryana Chief Minister for a CBI inquiry and sent copies of the letter to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, and the State Home Secretary, among others.
The CBI will investigate this case as well. The motive for the boy's murder and other activities of the Dera are the topics of discussion in Sirsa and surrounding districts. Chatrapati being a poet imbued with reformist zeal wrote perhaps a bit more consistently than the rest of his fraternity. By targeting him and also by attacking the office of Lekha Jokha, an evening newspaper published from Fatehabad, the Dera seemed to be sending a message to the journalistic fraternity. A total of 11 journalists have been given police protection. Political parties and journalist unions of all hues have condemned the actions of the Dera. Journalists and members of political parties protested in Sirsa against the attack on Ram Chandra Chatrapati in October.
Dera Sacha Sauda was setup by Shah Mastana from Baluchistan in 1948 AD.
Conceived as a centre of spiritual inquiry and learning, the Dera stood as a
symbol of disagreement with all established religions and orthodoxies. Its
beginnings were rooted in a liberal and progressive theology that accepted into
its fold many people. This naturally attracted several people. His successor,
Shah Satnam, continued the good work and a lot of branches came up in other
States as well.
But since 1992, when Gurmit Singh took over, the Dera began to acquire a lot of agricultural land, much of it allegedly by coercion. One of the philosophies of the Dera is that it neither receives nor gives donation. Today the Dera owns some 700 acres, which extend to the outskirts of Sirsa town, and its spokespersons claim that the main source of revenue is agriculture.
A guide points to the Dera set up by the founder, and the girls hostel, which was reportedly built in record time using free labour. What is not shown; is the petrol pump, the sophisticated supermarket and a revolving restaurant, to name a few of the entrepreneurial activities of the Dera. It runs a biscuit factory and an ice factory. All this information was gleaned locally and not from the Dera.
The Dera spokesperson, Dr. Aditya Arora, an ophthalmologist, preferred to highlight its boys' school affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education, its degree college affiliated to Kurukshetra University and a 175-bed hospital in Rajasthan's Ganganagar district. Ganganagar is also the birthplace of Gurmit Singh.
The Dera has 36 branches in 11 States, including Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. According to R.K. Soni, a sevadaar or volunteer, there are 400 sadhus and 100 sadhvis living in the Dera. "They manage on their own," said a sevadaar, rebutting the allegations of sexual exploitation.
The main mass of the Dera followers comprises peasants who claim to toil on Dera land for 18 hours a day. Dera followers claimed that the liquor mafia as well as followers of organized religion were working against Maharaj. They regretted the murder of Chatrapati but claimed that he "wrote all kinds of things".
Arora claims that the Sessions Judge who conducted the inquiry did not meet any of the relevant persons in the Dera. Chatrapati had been writing unprovoked, false and baseless reports, he maintained. "There was a difference between a sex scandal and an anonymous letter. The media should have made the distinction clear as it involved the feelings of 1.25 crore people," he said.
Commissioner D. Suresh was requested to restrain Chatrapati, but nothing
happened, he said. Suresh told Frontline that Dera representatives had indeed
made such a request and that he had cautioned them not to take the law into
their own hands. He added that his office had received several complaints
against the Dera, alleging land grabbing, drugs peddling and tax evasion.
The Dera had done good work but all that was glossed over by the media, lamented Arora. "We don't accept charity, we are totally anti-liquor and support de-addiction. We must have enraged the liquor lobby and organized religion," he said. Arora claimed that the Dera was the premier disaster relief organization in the country having supported drought relief in Gujarat, flood relief in Sirsa and even in Orissa. "Please do not defame the Master," requested the doctor, who had been trained at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
A popular movement against the Dera is taking shape, with all political parties demanding a thorough investigation into its activities. In a memorandum submitted to Haryana Governor Babu Parmanand, the Haryana Patrakar Sangh, the Haryana Union of Journalists, the Chandigarh Journalists Association, the Punjab Union of Journalists, the Himachal Pradesh Working Journalists Association and the Himachal Pradesh Union of Journalists demanded a CBI probe into the functioning of the Dera, including its sources of income and a review of the firearm licenses issued to Dera inmates, and provision of security to the journalists who have received threats.
Murder abuse cloud on Dera
May, 2007 l 0132 hrs ISTl Vishwa Mohan/TIMES NEWS NETWORK
NEW DELHI: Religious cult Dera Sacha Sauda, which has triggered sectarian strife across Punjab after an advertisement reportedly featured its chief Baba Gurmeet Singh as Guru Gobind Singh, is set to face the CBI's heat on May 22 when the agency will argue before an Ambala court that the sect's former office-bearers were involved in the murder of their fellow member when he tried to expose their misdeeds.
The matter relates to the murder of one of the 10 members of the cult's Sirsa-based management committee, Ranjit Singh, who had spoken against Gurmeet Singh.
The CBI has filed a charge sheet against five disciples of the Baba, including Avtar Singh, the grandson of the previous head of Dera. Besides the Ranjit Singh murder case, the Dera is under the CBI's scanner for two more cases, relating to the killing of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chatterpati and another pertaining to alleged sexual exploitation of sadhvis (women followers) by the Baba himself.
Chatterpati had extensively written about the alleged illegal activities of the Dera which has 36 branches in 11 states, including Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Dera was also in focus recently for its reach when it reportedly extended support to the Congress in the Punjab Assembly polls.
All three cases were handed over to CBI under the Punjab and Haryana High Court's orders in 2002. Though the last two cases are still being investigated, the agency found that the fear of being ostracised and possible threats from cult followers had kept the sadhvis and their family members from making any kind of disclosure against the Baba.
Locals in Sirsa felt so threatened that the CBI had to issue a public notice in 2005 seeking information about Dera and its head with an assurance that their identities would be kept secret.
"Although we have gathered a lot of information about the functioning of the Dera, we are still looking for some concrete evidence before filing chargesheets in the two pending cases," said an official.
The murky functioning of the Dera was revealed in May 2002 when an anonymous letter alleging sexual exploitation by the Baba came to light. The letter, written by a woman disciple of Gurmeet Singh, was addressed to the then PM and its copies were marked to the Union home minister, CBI, Haryana police chief and the National Human Rights Commission.
The letter, in Hindi, carried graphic details of the alleged exploitation of sadhvis. According to the CBI's FIR (No. RC-5(S)/2002/SIU-XV/CHG), a copy of which is with TOI, the Punjab and Haryana HC, after considering the inquiry report of the Sirsa sessions judge, had referred the matter to the investigating agency.
The FIR (dated December 12, 2002) has named 'Maharaj' Gurmeet Singh, the cult head, as an accused. The case was registered against him and other unknown persons under Sections 376 (rape), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code.
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