Prologue – The Dagar Effect – A Man Against The Kingdom Of God
February 2004: Chandigarh, CBI Office
ASP Dagar swiftly got down the stairs, whilst checking his wristwatch. He noticed that the time was well past his normal late night duty hours. His superiors had immense faith in him duty wise, and knew he’d still be lingering around in the Police Headquarters. And so, they’d pass out any urgent cases to him at this hour of the night. After all, most of the crimes in his jurisdiction happened after the devil’s hour. Drug peddlers, Human traffickers, casual rapists, twisted politicians, all were the same, and all were fiercely nocturnal. However, it was unusual even for him to receive an ominous call from Inspector RK Khujaria, who he knew only by name, asking him to meet, in the next hour at the outskirts of the sleepy city of Chandigarh. Dagar knew that Inspector Khujaria, who was recently counselled for being too brash and unruly by the administrative body, was someone he could not place his trust entirely. But something in the call affirmed the ASP that his colleague was onto something.
In the next hour, ASP Dagar would be plunged into a case, which would bring him onto the national canvas, and make him a modern day hero. A man who would be in time, owing to this case, be hailed as one of the bravest CBI Officer alive, and eventually get him indicted into CBI Delhi. He was after all, about to challenge a Godly establishment, which had terrified even the most powerful men in the country. ASP Dagar would in time become the face of steely resolve as he would face the wrath of more than a million angry people running riots across the nation. His heroics, however, would come at a great cost and sacrifice. A cost he would realise in the processing of this case over the next 13 years.
As his Ambassador’s headlights pierced the foggy blanket across the forked road of Khark Mangoli, ASP Dagar tried catching a small nap. It was only after the Ambassador came to a smooth stop near the tractor repair facility, and a sharp rasp on the glass window, that the ASP woke up. He immediately recognized Khujaria, outside the car, and his famous grey bullet parked to a side. As soon as the ASP stepped out of the car, Khujaria swiftly took out an envelope from his inner jacket.
“It’s a letter. Some lady claims that she’s been raped. Do you want to look at it?”, said Khujaria. The inspector’s question was just a formality, as he was already pulling out the letter from the envelop. Again a politician. Again he’d be prosecuted. Again they’d let him go. Again it’d be a sore joke on the system; thought ASP as soon as he heard the word Rape. Or it could be a propaganda of one party on the other. But as the Inspector handed over the document to ASP, he saw a name which was as baffling at the start as a rude practical prank, but as he read through, looked as logical as the foggy nights of the winter.
Dera Maharaj Gurmeet Singh rapes girls at the Dera – A line read in the letter, and in that very instant ASP knew this case was going to go far. Truly and unwaveringly far. This letter, an anonymous claim at that, questioned the kingdom of Dera Sacha Sauda, its subjects who went by the name, Insan, and its Emperor Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
August 28th, 2017: The Emperor Is Dethroned. The Land Is Set Ablaze
On this fateful day, after 13 years of waiting relentlessly, and attending more than 15 witness depositions, handling multiple hostiles and hundreds of death threats, ASP Dagar finally saw justice prevail. He was a changed man. The feisty young man who took up the herculean task of bringing down an empire was now a battered middle-aged Senior official who weighed his emotions a little too carefully. The judgment was passed. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was held guilty on the charge of two counts of Rape. The vivacious God-Man was sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment by the Haryana High Court. The ASP although content with the sentence and the rewards it bore, walked humbly out of the courtroom and got back to his office in Delhi. The CBI ASP then spent the evening drinking his favourite tea and listening to old songs.
“It was a good decision by the High Court. Timely also. We know about the case for the past decade. We know about the man. Now everyone does. We have done the job. And for everyone involved with the case over the years, this is a major and undeniable victory. However, let me warn here. It will be a difficult task ahead. Things will be said, discredited, and denied even. People will start riots, and the whole state will have a disturbed living for a short while. This is, by all means, is just a start. There is so much to do. The Dera Chief has just been arrested. That is just half of the game. We need to ensure; we are delivering the justice all through. Otherwise, nothing we do will make sense..”
Chapter One – March 2002, Punjab And Haryana High Court
On a fine Wednesday morning, the Punjab and Haryana High Court received a letter addressed to the judges from a practising advocate, Karan Mundra. An anonymous letter which was, in turn, delivered to him by a small boy earlier that morning. The boy said ‘Please’ and fled the scene after he handed over the letter. Karan Mundra took the sealed letter to his office in Sector 17 and opened it. As he finished reading it, he knew he had to submit it to the honourable court, and provide some sort of legal recourse to the woman confessing something entirely horrifying. The advocate waited for Honorable Judge Bindra to occupy his chambers by 12 PM. As soon as he did, the young advocate rushed the letter to the judge. The contents of the letter appalled even the learned judge. It was confirming incidence of horrors which until then were whispered across the city in muffled tones. He immediately called for a bench to decide on the validity and otherwise of the letter, and perhaps even take an appropriate and earliest action on the complaint. It was a chore that they had to take up extremely carefully.
The court had come under a lot of flak the previous year for considering a judgment based on fake evidence by a rookie journalist, who had sought justice for an assault on him by the Dera army. Presently, the letter evidenced a much larger onslaught, and they just couldn’t take any chances. Especially since the letter was addressed to the Honorable Prime Minister Of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In days to come the court would realize that one copy of the same letter was received by the Prime Minister’s Office. As it ensued, the letter, everyone knew and internally hoped, would create the smallest of opportunities to stomp down a kingdom which questioned the judiciary, sovereignty and democracy of the Nation. It was a meaty prospect for the Indian government finally, one which it was in no mood to let go. This single letter, if carefully intertwined with tangible evidence, would serve as a fierce cannonball which would break down the wall around the Dera Chief.
The content of the letter read as follows.
Honourable Prime Minister
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Government of India)
Subject: Request for probe into rape of hundreds of girls by Dera chief (Ram Rahim)
I am a girl hailing from Punjab and I have been serving as a sadhvi at Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa (Haryana) for the last five years. There are hundreds of other girls, who serve for 16-18 hours a day at the Dera. We are being physically exploited here. Dera Maharaj Gurmeet Singh rapes girls at the Dera. I am a graduate girl. My family members are blind followers of Maharaj (Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh). I became a sadhvi at my family’s bidding.
Two years after I became a sadhvi, Maharaj Gurmeet Singh’s close woman-disciple Gurjot told me one night around 10 pm that I had been summoned to ‘Gufa’ (residence of Gurmeet Ram Rahim). As I was going there for the first time, I was elated that God himself had sent out for me. When I went upstairs, I saw Maharaj sitting on the bed holding a remote control in hand and watching a blue film on TV. Beside his pillow on the bed, lay a revolver. Seeing all this, I was stunned, felt dizziness, and felt as if the earth has moved from beneath my feet. I wondered what at all was happening here.
I had never imagined that Maharaj would be such a person. Maharaj switched off the TV and seated me beside him. He offered me water and said that he had called me because he considered me very dear to him. This was my first day (experience).
Maharaj took me in his arms and said that he loved me from the core of his heart. He also said that he wanted to make love with me. He told me that at the time of becoming his disciple, I had dedicated my wealth, body and soul to him and he had accepted my offering. By this logic, your body is mine now.
When I objected he said, “There is no doubt that I am God.” When I asked if God also indulges in such acts, he shot back:
…Sri Krishna too was God and he had 360 gopis (milkmaids) with whom he staged Prem Lila (love drama). Even then people regarded him as God. This is not a new thing.
…I can kill you with this revolver and cremate you here. The members of your family are my devoted followers and they have such blind faith in me that they are my slaves. You know it very well that your family members cannot go against me.
…I have considerable influence in the governments. The chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana, and central Ministers touch my feet. Politicians seek my support and take money from me. They cannot take any action against me. We will get your family members dismissed from government jobs. I will get them killed and wouldn’t leave any evidence behind. You know it very well that I had got Dera manager Fakir Chand killed earlier. No one knows anything about him till date. Neither there is any evidence of the murder. By money power, I can buy politicians, police and justice.
Thus, he raped me. For the past three months, my turn comes every 25-30 days. Now, I realise that he has been raping other girls staying with him.
Around 35-40 women living at the Dera are over 35-40 years old and past the marriageable age. They have compromised with their lives at the Dera. Most of the girls are educated and have secured BA, MA, BEd degrees. But they are living a life of hell at the Dera because their family members are fanatic followers. We wear white clothes, cover heads with scarf, forbidden to look at men and keep a distance of 5-10 feet from men as per Maharaj’s commands.
We appear like devis (pious women), but our situation is that of prostitutes. I tried once to tell my family members that all was not well at the Dera. But, they got angry with me saying that if God’s company is not worth enjoying then which place would be. It seems your mind has become corrupt, recite the name of satguru (the real teacher), they told me. I am helpless. I have to obey every command of the Maharaj.
No girl is permitted to talk to another. As per the commands of the Maharaj, girls are not permitted to talk to their families even over telephone. If a girl talks about the reality of the Dera, she is punished under the commands of the Maharaj. Just a few days ago, a Bathinda girl spoke about the wrongdoings of the Maharaj, she was thrashed by women-disciples. She is still bed-ridden at her home due to this assault. Her father has left his service as a sevadar (servant of Dera). She is not telling anyone anything for the fear of Maharaj.
Similarly, a girl from Kurukshetra district has also left the Dera and went back home. When she narrated her sufferings at the Dera to her family, her brother who worked as a sevadar, gave up his job. When a Sangrur girl left the Dera, went home and narrated the wrongdoings at the Dera to the people, the Dera’s armed sewadar hooligans visited the girl’s home and threatened to kill her. They warned her not to tell anyone anything about the Dera.
Similarly, girls from Mansa, Ferozepur, Patiala and Ludhiana districts (of Punjab) have gone back home and are keeping mum as they have threat to their lives. Same is the fate of girls from Sirsa, Hissar, Fatehabad, Hanumangarh and Meerut who are not uttering a word due to muscle power of the Dera goondas.
If I reveal my name (and) my address, my family and I will be killed. I can’t keep quiet and I also don’t want to die, but I want to expose the reality (of Dera). If a probe is conducted by the press or some government agency, 40 to 45 girls – living in utmost fear at the Dera -, if they are convinced, are willing to tell the truth.
Our medical examination should be conducted so that our guardians and the people would know whether we are still celibate disciples or not. If we are no longer virgins, it should be probed as to who violated our chastity. The truth will then come out that Maharaj Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of Sacha Sauda has ruined our lives.
Chapter Two – The Maharaj Origins: The Rise Of The Dera Chief
To understand the effect of a religious and sometimes cult-ish ecosystem established by Dera community, we need to take a look at the origin story of it. Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) was established in 1948 by Mastana Baluchistani. The purpose for which this ‘Insan’(Humans) community was started was arguably to bring in the poor and downtrodden sections and impart upon them Divine teachings and recourses, which until then was restricted exclusively to the upper caste within the state. However, in time, and after the death of Mastam Baluchistani, the DSS split into three constitutional sects which differed in ideologies and paths to Divinity. One of them was called the Sirsa Group and was being led by the effervescent Satnam Singh. By 1990, The Sirsa sect of DSS, elected amongst themselves their next leader to succeed Satnam Singh, who by then was embroiled in unprecedented political turmoil. Thus, the sect turned to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who took over the reins of the sect. He was merely 23 years old then. To take a closer look at the evolution of the Dera Chief we talked to Prof Taufiq Hussain and understood what made him stand out and propel the sect to newer unchartered directions.
“Ram Rahim Singh was into the leadership ring right out of his teenage. By 1992, he was being driven to take decisions by the senior candidatures, but Ram Rahim brought into the sects what his predecessors couldn’t. Relatability. He colloqualised the sermons to be understandable to the common populace, he made the bhajans and songs, basically hummable, and brought what can be termed as a Commoner’s playground. If you are talking about Ram Rahim and you are not talking about his larger than life portrayals in movies, then you are missing the whole point. One thing Ram Rahim made sure always was that, whatever he did, he would want to infuse entertainment into it. That sort of ushered the sect in newer directions. Gone were the days when the sanctimonious rituals were reserved or provisioned on an exclusive basis. That was the point. Approachability and relatability. And the teachings gave him all the fuel to establish this God-like image within the public. He wasn’t just Ram Rahim anymore. People, his followers majorly, anointed a new name for him. Maharaj. Ironically, he brought a new name to them as well. Insan. The followers of the sect were to use the name Insan after their name to pledge their devotion. Things were turning to his favour”
Chapter Three: Inside The Caves: The Dead Bodies Talking
The construction of Dera Chief’s Kingdom was taken up with much aplomb. Sirsa, the place and the sect, started to have major revenue influx, owing to ‘godly offerings’ from Canada, Australia and England. The Dera Chief Ram Rahim had arrived into his early thirties when his Sirsa fortress was built by his followers and politically inclined well-wishers. He was the chieftain of nearly 70% of backward classes, who followed him to the tee, when it came to deciding and influencing votes in the state of Punjab. Ram Rahim’s Sirsa was the only sect perhaps which was strongly vocal about its political allegiances. The Dera Chief himself on several occasions had made it a point to either endorse or derogate a political party, much for his convenience.
In 2007, noticeably when the enquiry into the allegations on him was quite underway, Ram Rahim had vocally supported the Congress. As the winds started blowing in the opposite direction, the Dera Chief leaned the other way, in nodding support to the Narendra Modi led BJP political reform. Those following the case of Dera Chief from the start would see this as the point where his allegiances came into question. In a state which was predominantly Congress influenced, Ram Rahim took to supporting BJP. It was the most practical thing to do on his part, but it took a considerable time for his followers to gulp in the decision. At this point, the God-Man had already established a practice of unidirectional decision making. He would call the shots and the followers would, well, follow. Grants started flowing in, promises being forged, and deals being agreed upon. For almost around 2.5lakh people, Ram Rahim became the thought leader. And thus, the Sirsa fortress was built, with an exclusive swanky looking Ram Rahim quarters, which housed 13 bedrooms, 2 kitchens, 2 guest rooms, a 500 square foot lawn area, and an equally large garage to house his popular, customized cars.
Inspector Yogender Singh who was also involved in the Dera Chief takedown operation between 2007 and 2013 recounts the investigation of Sirsa fortress and divulges more baffling discoveries.
“In 2012, we got a tip-off from the local panchyati office that a certain 15-year-old boy went missing two days back, and that they suspected the play of ‘Insan’ gang therein. This led us to take up the case and start the investigation. The procedures against Ram Rahim Maharaj were already underway in Delhi, and this incident seemed too distant and random to be of any association to the case. So, we treated it as an individual case entirely. However, after 3 months of turning the city upside down, we couldn’t get any information on the missing boy. It seemed that he had disappeared without a trace. When I say all of the city, there was only one place we hadn’t searched in. The Dera Sirsa Palace. Officially we would never get the warrants for search, so we thought otherwise. In the coming weeks, one of our informants befriended one of the Dera Insans. Slowly the truth did come out. It wasn’t just a boy. It was much more than that. There was a damning graveyard within the fortress. Half an acre of a graveyard. And back in 2012, as per our sources, there were already 300 people buried within the premises. The Dera Chief had a weird fascination towards the dead. The religious collective, if rumours were to be believed at that time, was majorly participative in necromancy practices. We weren’t just dealing with a powerful organization. We were now dealing with something which was beyond normal understanding. The missing boy ended up as one of the subjects in the graveyard. By late 2012, we applied for warrants for search and seizure but were subtly denied any entrance. It is not that the fortress was completely out of bounds. Occasional parties, bashes, gatherings, were always held, where the senior police officials were always invited. But this was something else. We sent the report of our findings to CBI eventually”
On September 17th, 2017, after the arrest of Ram Rahim Maharaj, one of his closest aide, DR PR Nain, divulged to the Special Investigations Team (SIT) about the infamous graveyard and the 600 dead bodies it contained. The confession also said that the Dera Chief took special care for the graves, as he used to personally plant saplings in them.
Were these graves of people who were dead outside? Were they the followers who perhaps questioned his command? Or were they, as was the case with the missing boy, the bodies of ignorant youth, perhaps sacrificed in Cultish practices? The Special Investigations Team has still to zero in on a conclusive stance. Thus, the justice system of the country was only beginning to understand the audacity of crimes within the Fortress of Maharaj.
Chapter Four: January 2004, The Investigation Into The Letter Starts
Since the receipt of the anonymous letter which claimed that two Sandhvis were raped and molested within the premises of Dera Fortress and by Ram Rahim Singh himself, the court started an initial probe into the case. By the end of 2002, they had no luck in passing over the bureaucracy and political barb wires fenced across the case, and practically left it out to dry. An anonymous letter wasn’t good enough. It could have been created by anyone, and when you are up against a man who is practically and literally revered by two million people at the very least, it was too risky a prospect. The Chandigarh PS which was initially involved was quickly finding it too scarring to handle, as day after day, followers of the Dera Chief would horde around the station and create a deafening nuisance. At this time, Inspector Khujaria was one of the very few people, who saw the merit in the case, coupled with additional evidence, and sought an enquiry team. His application was rejected more than a couple of times. By the end of 2013, the information somehow leaked out, and while the Inspector was driving home one night, he was confronted by a dozen Dera Insans, and a quarrel ensued. A disciplinary action was called out on the Inspector, for ‘hurting sentiments and demeaning religious beliefs’.
In February 2004, it was clear to Inspector Khujaria that a better alternative was to approach the CBI office directly. But the Dera community, the sevaks were occupied in every profession, and the word would eventually get out. He couldn’t risk such discrepancy again. Then he chose, ASP Dagar. He contacted him directly on the outskirts of the city and showed him the letter. In the next month, ASP Dagar and Inspector Khujaria formed an unofficial committee (which would later be designated) to look into the matter. They were joined by the first investigation officer, DSP SS Sandhu in their operations. The accusations were there but the evidence needed to be collected. All they had was a piece of paper.
Chapter Five: Like A Kite Dancing In The Hurricane – Inside The Fortress
Sandhvi. The women in service of the sect of Dera. Women who rarely walked in, voluntarily. Women who were either ‘found’, ‘bought’ or ‘forced’ into the sect by wealthy holdings. Women who were offerings to the God, and served him in every way possible. If you were a family running a business into losses, if you were ailing from an incurable disease, if you were just in the need of some good fortune going your way, often desperately so, then there was one solution you could try. Offer a woman. One of your own, or kidnap one somewhere in Delhi, Calcutta, Bhopal or Shillong even, and bring them here. One woman offered would cure every possible malady. The God-Man would ensure this.
The Dera Kingdom housed about 240 female disciples called ‘Sandhvis’. They were housed in three buildings within the fortress. One of them Shah Satnamji Hostel which could house up to 70 Sandhvis. Then there were a couple of buildings, which were called Ashram. Most of these women were aged between 28 to 45, as they were ‘aware’ of things. The Dera Chief preferred them. The customary ritual followed by the Dera female disciples was simple. Rise up early in the morning, get finished with ablutions, dressed up in a way that the fabric covered them from tip to toe, and pray until the afternoon. Fanaticism needed divinity as well. By the night, the Dera Chief would walk into the hostels randomly (he was the only man allowed into them), and pick anyone basing on the mood.
One of the Sandhvi’s who broke out of the fortress in the year 2008, revealed the following atrocities they faced within the Dera camp.
“Maharaj would come to our quarter past half past nine. I was residing in a room on the third floor, with other three women. As he would come, an announcement would be sent across, by tapping on the doors, and everyone had to assemble outside our rooms, in a line. Maharaj would come then, and preach a prayer. A new prayer every day, and we were asked to repeat it. As the chanting and repetitions subsided, he would select three women to come forward randomly. He would then sit on a bench at the end of the corridor, and with us watching, he would ask one of these selects to strip. Once it was my turn. I had to strip down naked and kneel down before him. He would then pull down his pants, and firm his penis over my forehead. Once he signalled enough, he would walk back to his room with the two other selected women. Rape, Abuse and Atrocity, was the most common thing you’d find on the premises. If one of us stood against him, he would have his men, drag her to the ground, and rape her to death. No one could refuse anything in the fortress”
In September 2004, the biggest challenge before the CBI and Police Dept basing on the anonymous letter they had received was tracking the woman behind it. An Anonymous letter was inadmissible. The details of even suspected women writing the letter, even the slightest hint, would put them in grave danger. And they were running with very few resources. In a state where the collective of Dera watched each and every movement of yours, how do you keep such a sensational thing secret? And the more important question was – For how long could this secrecy be managed? In this situation, ASP Dagar and Inspector Khujaria decided to seek support from the CBI Headquarters, Delhi. But as they planned their trip to Delhi and confirmed ‘meetings’ with senior officials, a politically allegiant speech came out in support of the Dera Chief by the then home minister. Thus, the two seekers of justice were now walking on thin ice. A whiff of this enquiry could end their lives forever. But as they say, sometimes you got to be as mad as your opponent to win the game.
“It was perhaps at this point, that we knew. The case would not be effected immediately. It would be a long fight. We would have to wait it out. No matter the consequences, we had to be patient. A couple of years, a decade, we didn’t know, but the fall would happen, and we would get the political support we’d want someday. The GodMan was a mortal; in time everyone would see his flaws. Patience was our only friend”
Chapter Six: The Family – A Wife, A Daughter, An Allegiance and A Mistress
By 2007, Ram Rahim Singh had emerged as a formidable socio-political influence. His vivacious teachings and extrapolating techniques claimed a worldwide recognition. Funds came by millions of dollars every few months. Dera Chief and his army were at the peak of their power. For the first time, international branches of the community were formed, with close aides and confidants of the GodMan taking up these divisions. What was started by Guru Satnam Singh ages back, was slowly turning to something entirely different under the regime of Ram Rahim Singh. But one thing he needed to work on, was his sustainable political solidarity. You see, even the GodMan realized that one shift of government, and it wouldn’t be long before he’d find himself in the faith crosshairs. He had wavered enough.
He had his son therefore to forge an alliance. Jasmeet married Husanmeet in a grand affair near Patiala. Husanmeet, the daughter of Indian National Congress leader Harminder Singh Jassi, validated Dera chief’s support to Congress in the elections. In 2007, Dera Chief was the key to Congress swooping a win in the Punjab State Elections. However, his allegiances backfired going forward, as in 2012, Congress party couldn’t triumph over the turbulence in the political weather. The Congress lost in the State Elections, and so did Harminder Singh Jassi. This was the start of the political weakening of Ram Rahim Singh. The GodMan had faced his first defeat. His word had been trampled with. His downfall seemed to have begun.
In 2008, CBI Delhi called in two women, whom ASP Dagar and Inspector Khujaria had brought in under security to the headquarters, but the women turned out to be hostile at the last moment. It had taken them 4 long years to zero in on these two women. To track down the hand which wrote that anonymous letter 6 years earlier addressed to PMO. The investigation, as it started with a humble little group of men, fighting for justice, had now acquired enough teeth and claw, to put up a fight. Three years prior to finding the women, the question of how to find them had been their major concern. Inspector Khujaria took it upon himself to start interviewing women who were known Sandhvis, and try to figure out something. Confidentiality was the key, and so a few fake cases were created, some of missing women, some of kidnapped children, and thus the enquiry was started. The list of women in the premises by 2005, was prepared and submitted to the CBI in Delhi. Then, a process of elimination was started. Dagar took a bold step and approached the Dera Management to provide a list of women who were present in the Dera and those who had left, for ‘enquiry and record’ purposes. It was thus understood that, by 2002, when the letter was actually written, around 24 Sandhvis had left. These 24 Sandhvis, had either eloped with someone else, or pleaded sick and run away from the hospitals, or plainly absconded out. They remained the best options to start the elimination process.
Out of these 24 Sandhvis, ASP Dagar and Inspector Khujaria finally zeroed in on 18 prospects. Prolonged interrogation with them remained futile. The women were terrified of the fate which lay ahead of them if they spoke about the Maharaj. After initial conversations with these 18 Sandhvi’s, it was slowly but surely seeming that the Police were finally facing a dead end. They prodded further into the list of Sandhvis who left even before 2002, but nothing seemed to materialize.
“The problem with these women was, they were scared. Not for themselves, but for the families they had back home, or the families they were now married into. They had come out of the fortress, to be undetected, you know even unrecognizable, and when we came knocking at the door, they just plainly blocked us out. Talking with them itself became a huge achievement. And even if they did talk, they out rightly denied any claims on Ram Rahim Singh. Writing a letter was something we couldn’t initially ask them, but even if we did hint at it, the response was blank ignorance. The enquiry had the resources now, but it was wild and unstructured. Nothing seemed to be working anymore”
In 2009, under these complex times, a woman officially entered the life of Ram Rahim. One who would make Ram Rahim’s erratic behavior count for something, by bringing him to Movies and Music. These movies would become the biggest blockbusters purely on the basis of the following he enjoyed, and this woman would ensure that. She walked into the fortress, as a gift from her husband to the GodMan for good fortune. The woman, however, was mildly popular as a stage dancer, and B grade celebrity. The woman from Haryana, whose name was Priyanka Taneja, would in time become the closest aide of the GodMan. And she’d be sold to the world as his ‘daughter’, HoneyPreet Singh.
Chapter Seven: Guilt And Generosity Are Directly Proportional
The story of Priyanka Taneja becomes an important cog in understanding the whole arch of Ram Rahim’s journey. Born in Fatehabad town, Haryana, Priyanka Taneja married Vishwas Gupta, a Dera follower in the year 1999. She was 17 and Vishwas was 20 years old. The wedding was attended by the Dera Chief, who in fact solemnized the wedding. However, there is one more thing he did at the wedding. He hugged Priyanka Taneja in a congratulatory tone, and turned to Vishwas Gupta and said “Send her to me”. After the marriage, Vishwas and Priyanka moved out of Fatehabad, and for reasons Vishwas wouldn’t tell his wife, they moved to Mumbai. It took the Dera Chief another five years to find his whereabouts. The Insan army, then kidnapped Vishwas’s parents, asking only that Priyanka be brought to the chief for a day. Even so, Vishwas Gupta did not budge at that moment of time. However, what he did not anticipate is that Priyanka had already understood the Chief’s interest in her. With Vishwas she was a nobody. She had stopped her show dancing as soon she got married. But even today, the people back home, always referred to her as ‘Chamiya’ (a cheap dancer). She would remain the same within her marriage to Vishwas. However, with Dera Chief, she could rule the whole state, and as things were progressing, even the nation one day. It was a choice she was perhaps born to make. She convinced her husband to take her to the Fortress in Sirsa.
Her husband Vishwas Gupta recounts the day he took his wife to the Dera Kingdom.
“She was young and beautiful. I did not understand what to do. He would kill me and my parents if I did not listen. I would be one more grave in the graveyard. Priyanka told me, that it is better to go and talk to him. Running will not help us she’d said. So we went to Sirsa, and sought audience of Maharaj. As soon as he knew, we were here, he summoned us to his private quarters. I was made to stay outside, ad Maharaj called my wife inside his bedroom. He asked one of the guards to keep the door half open, and placed a chair in front of the door, and forced me to sit there. In half vision, I could see, my wife stripping down naked in front of him. He then ran his fingers down her thighs and started inserting them. In these moments, Priyanka’s eyes met mine, and in that moment I knew, she wanted this. As the screams got louder and louder, speckled with occasional flesh slaps, I sat there watching my wife having sex with an older hairy man”
The next day, Vishwas and Priyanka went back to Mumbai. The Dera Chief would call for her whenever he wanted her. He would send her flight tickets, and Vishwas had to ensure that she has a pleasant flight. Slowly, Priyanka got used to this lifestyle, and by 2007, she would call the Dera Chief up and demand an audience. It was as if she was driving the whole arrangement.
On one of her flights, to Chandigarh, a classily dressed gentleman took the seat beside her. He initiated a conversation with Priyanka. In the hour-long flight, he talked about various things, from his education, his leisure’s, and more. But as the flight almost touched down, ASP Dagar told her his true identity and asked her for help in gathering evidence against Ram Rahim. He had wronged more than fifty women, and it was her justice too. He handed his card to her and expected her to call. But she never did. She walked out of the Chandigarh airport and took the car straight to Sirsa. It was time for her to settle down here.
Vishwas then was made to divorce his wife under coercion. And Priyanka Taneja became Dera Chief’s mistress. Of course, for the public appearance, she was ‘adopted’ as the GodMan’s daughter. Ram Rahim introduced her to his followers, media and people all over, as his third child, HoneyPreet Singh.
The first act that Ram Rahim did with Honeypreet Singh was to start health awareness campaigns across the state and laid the foundation to 14 educational institutes. In time for his charitable work, he would stand as an entry in Guinness Book Of World Records.
“Ram Rahim post his in-law’s defeat in 2012 election, was suddenly taken aback. It was time to regain his lost power ans stature on the political front. He became charitable to the hilt. He started organizing medical camps across the states of Punjab and Haryana, left right and center. There was no stopping him, as he started distributing free food and clothes to poor, homeless and needy. It was a classic case of the higher the guilt, the larger the generosity. And HoneyPreet was proving to his smartest aide, who knew what needs to be done, and where. She rose to being a power Centre in herself. He built a larger-than-life image fro himself across the two states. But he needed to solidfy it as well. Thus, he started with Music in 2012, which would lead to making Movies as well, by the early 2015”
“As for us, well, we were facing one dead end after the other. Witnesses bailing out in the last moment was the norm. Political squash downs, legal wrap-ups, everything happened. We even tried our hand at tracking down the financial contributions and gifts the Dera community was receiving. A few traders from Libya and Emirates were arrested for siphoning money through shell companies, but nothing worthwhile could be established. As it were the attacks on Policemen reached their violent best. Special Public Prosecutor who was instrumental in collating evidence, met with an accident. Three jeeps carrying Dera men, rammed his car from behind. Personal attacks, kidnaps, threats grew exponentially. Three police vans were bombed right outside the city police station. In this time, we knew we were getting close to something. We just needed one half of a chance. And before it got too late”
Chapter Eight: The Messenger Of God (MSG) Brings A The Message From A Sandhvi
In 2012, the nation went into a frenzy by knowing that the GodMan was coming out with his first music single. Thank You For That, became an instant hit. Which was simultaneously followed by other singles, Network Tere Love Ka, Chashma Yaar Ka and Insan. These music videos spoke about basically everything under the sun. With spectacular visuals, physics-defying stunts, discotheque beats, and juvenile lyrics which could be hummed by anyone. These videos met with unprecedented success, and established him as a powerful force in front of the camera as well. Entertainment got mixed with a Political stand which in turn got infused with Religious propaganda. It was also helping him immensely that the political scenario was unravelling towards a more Indian change. But the Dera Chief was just beginning. His voyeuristic creativity knew no bounds. He spread so fast, so far that even the political parties supporting him, felt a tinge of power dynamics shifting.
And there was Honeypreet who started taking the claim of his PR and Manager and brought Dera Chief the best of talents to collaborate with. Music companies started hoarding the Dera Fortress, and it was only a natural progression that he stepped into movies. Honeypreet also assisted him in various projects, but they both eyed a heroic mission with Movies. This thought brought them to Messenger Of God, the Dera Chief’s first feature film. The movie met with a roaring success at the box office, worldwide, collecting more than 350 crores, which was a slight shy above than most of Salman Khan films. The spirit sequel to MSG, MSG-2, became even a bigger hit all over. Ram Rahim was now known to every youngster in the country. He was popular beyond imagination. And that is where he dropped his guard.
In 2015, the CBI Chandigarh Office received a call from one of the Sandhvis, ASP Dagar had interrogated back in 2005. Almost ten years later. The voice in the phone call, said that she was ready to speak up. She also had convinced her friend to do the same. By watching their abuser on the large screen, something had stricken them deeply, and it made them come to Delhi the very next day. They had been raped. ASP Dagar and Inspector Khujaria finally got the window they needed. The deposition took place in an old bungalow in Noida, to avoid any media attention and leakage. And what they recorded on tape, gave them all the firepower they needed to summon warrants. Two counts of Rape was the message. The Sandhvis also confessed that they knew about the murder of Journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati and Ranjit Singh, both the cases which were pending in the Panchkula Court.
Chapter Nine: The Downfall And The Kingdom Crumbles
The Dera Chief was so smitten by the flashy and glamorous world of cinema, that he forgot what was happening on the political front. The Government of India had already started tightening the screws on his investigation. He was a nuisance on all fronts now. And was additionally of no use to the state of Punjab and Haryana, where political strategists saw his power waning. Warrants were issued for search and seizure. Express hearings were called out. Delhi suddenly became charged up to arrest the GodMan finally. Thus, a police commando team landed at Sirsa and forced themselves into the Dera Fortress. People were fought, An Army of Fanatics at that, Graves were discovered, and pieces of evidence were collected. The baffling part came when, they discovered that they had enough evidence and more, on the very first day. Such was the audacity of Maharaj, that he felt it least necessary to even hide or otherwise ward off his assets.
“When we went in, as an immense fight ensued, with men with swords fighting wildly across, stones being pelted at us from distance, it was utter unfathomable chaos. The break-in was timed perfectly at half past midnight. We had to bring in the water guns to dominate over the Insan army. I remember walking through the chaos and seeing bonfires being lit across the grounds. Then I realized that packets of powder were being thrown into it, by a group of people. We had heard about the drugs, but this was something else entirely. Cartons and cartons of drugs, being thrown into bonfires, which erupted wildly owing to that, and vicious smokes emanated. As our men, barged into hostels and quarters, about 28 gunny bags of currency cash was found. Another 12 bags or so, were just thrown into the air, by the women out of anger. The night sky was filled with the currency of cash flying menacingly, feisty smokes of red, and stones and water. And with this, the legacy of Dera slowly crumbled down in a spectacular fashion”.
On 25 August 2017, a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana, delivered its verdict in a sexual assault case regarding a former Dera sadhvi, finding Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of two counts of rape. More than 200,000 people gathered at Panchkula and as soon as the verdict was out, the fanaticism knew no bounds. On the very same day, Honeypreet Singh went missing in a dramatic turn of events. The followers of the Dera Chief burned the city of Chandigarh with protests and strikes. Widespread vandalism followed taking the lives of at least 45 people in the process.
On 28 August 2017, the CBI court sentenced him to a total of 20 years in jail, 10 years for each of the two rape convictions to be served consecutively. The trial for the alleged murder of reporter Ram Chander Chhatrapati was yet to be heard. And thus the justice prevailed, after a terrible span of 13 years since the publishing of the letter of accusation. Who had written it, still remained a mystery to date. But the Dera Chief’s arrest did happen because of that. Perhaps it was all meant to be. Perhaps it was all predestined, In The Name Of God.