The special CBI court sentenced Dera chief Ram Rahim to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment, on Monday. Additionally, a fine of Rs. 15 lakh has been imposed on him for each of the two cases. Ram Rahim’s lawyer, however, says they will appeal in higher courts. A compensation of Rs. 14 lakh to each of the two victims will also be given by the Dera chief. Here’s a detailed report by Navodita, in Different Truths.
As the special CBI court sentenced Dera chief Ram Rahim to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment on Monday, curfew is imposed in Punjab’s Barnala and heavy security arrangements are in place in Sirsa. Additionally, a fine of Rs. 15 lakh has been imposed on him for each of the two cases. Ram Rahim’s lawyer, however, says they will appeal in higher courts. A compensation of Rs. 14 lakh to each of the two victims will also be given by the Dera chief.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted in the case fifteen years after it was registered. In this case corroborative statements of two rape victims and their relatives, besides adverse lie-detection test results of three close associates of the guru and other circumstantial evidence, proved crucial in his conviction by the special CBI court in Panchkula which came out with its judgement on Friday.
Taking cognizance of an anonymous letter, alleging sexual exploitation of girls by the Dera Sacha Sauda chief, the Panjab and Haryana High Court had on May 2002 directed the District and Sessions Judge (Sirsa) to probe. However, the judge found that no one was willing to speak up. Not ruling out the possibility, the judge recommended a central agency investigation and therefore, on the High Court directive, the CBI registered the case on December 12, 2002.
In 2005, the agency managed to get a list of residents at the Dera, revealing that 53 ‘sadhvis’ lived in the girls’ hostel and 80 in the Dera Sacha Sauda’s Sirsa ashram. Of the 24 sadhvis who had left the Dera between 1997 and 2002, 20 were traced. Most of them were married so feared adverse consequences on telling the truth.
It was not until May-July 2006 that the CBI managed to convince two victims to share complete information. They gave a detailed account of what was happening inside the Dera chief’s rooms and what transpired to them in August 1999. One of them recorded her statement under Section 164 of the Cr. PC in March 2007.
What was more intriguing, however, was the violence that broke out when the special CBI court pronounced the verdict convicting the Dera chief. Amidst widespread fire and stone-throwing, the Haryana government clearly abdicated its responsibility of maintaining law and order, and protecting life and property. Since the morning of the day of the verdict, tens of thousands of Dera Sacha Sauda sect were allowed to gather for a show of strength when Gurmeet Ram Rahim was awaiting the judicial verdict. 38 people were reported to have been killed in this violence. Later Section 144 of the CrPC was imposed on most areas of NCR including Noida and Ghaziabad.
The conviction of this guru brings to light the blind faith people instill in religious leaders. Also, that out of hundreds of those made victims by the Guru, only two women had the courage to come out and speak on the atrocities they were subjected to, tells a lot about the current mindset that exists among devotees. This incident truly proves that no one is above the law, however, late it may be.
Photos from the Internet.
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