The rise of self-styled Godman, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan, chief of the wildly popular Dera Sacha Sauda is anything but ordinary. The rockstar guru was convicted for raping two of his sadhvis in August 2017, but there is evidence that links him to several other criminal activities such as forced castrations, private militias, illegal trade in arms and opium, and land grab on an untold scale.
Here are a few things you didn't know about Dera Sacha Sauda:
Ram Rahim was not the kind of person who could have founded a dera; he clearly lacked the spiritual depth or the religious insight this would require. But he had the practical cunning and duplicity to get himself nominated by his predecessor to the position of the head of this dera at gunpoint and build on his authority and charisma.
The Sikh community was at loggerheads with Dera Sacha Sauda after an advertisement was printed showing Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh allegedly dressed up like Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs. Their anger was almost wholly against a man daring to portray a likeness of their Guru.
In 1990, the Dera owned five acres of land on record. By 2017, the empire in Sirsa extended to more than 700 acres of land. Gurmeet Ram Rahim achieved this feat by simply manipulating the minds of his followers. He started telling them that if they desired to connect directly with the Supreme Power, they had to show a willingness to give away their worldly possessions to the Dera, including donating their lands. Many fell prey to this and blindly signed sales deeds in favour of the Dera at throwaway rates. The Dera, in turn, sold these lands at a premium and used the money to buy more land in Sirsa.
As his wealth grew, Gurmeet knew he had to protect his empire. To protect it, he decided to create a private army. In early 2000, the Dera chief discussed the idea with some Indian Army veterans who were Dera followers. A blueprint was made and recruitment for the purpose began. The recruitment procedure for the Dera's private army was loosely based on the process followed by the Indian Army. A jawan, once recruited, underwent rigorous physical training under the supervision of ex-army men. They were trained in the handling of small arms and other weapons. Most of the personnel were trained to be assassins.
The Dera chief – Gurmeet Ram Rahim resorted to forced castration of several minors and sadhus to emasculate (deprive the male of his identity) them. By an estimate, more than 200 sadhus had been castrated by 2002.
Fanki is a residue of opium. The Dera chief has it mixed in the rotis served during the community breakfast. All the followers go about their day under its influence. When by afternoon, the high wears off; fanki is again mixed with the food served for lunch. This is the reason people work at the Dera for sixteen hours without complaining.
The article is an excerpt of Anurag Tripathi's recently launched book, Dera Sacha Sauda and Gurmeet Ram Rahim: A Decade-Long Investigation. And if you are interested in knowing more about the case, do not miss to read his book.