In 2007, working on a tip off, journalists Anurag Tripathi and Ethmad A Khan (both working in Tehelka’s investigation) team set out on a remarkable journey to uncover a vast and wild array of allegations against, now disgraced and jailed, Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Allegations that they stumbled upon were extraordinary and serious in nature. They included rape, murder, sexual exploitation, forced castrations, large-scale land grabbing, and illegal trade in arms and opium. Last year, Singh was found guilty by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and sentenced to 20 years in jail for his heinous crimes.
Tripathi has now published a book, Dera Sacha Sauda and Gurmeet Ram Rahim, which records the findings of his investigation carried out as a journalist 11 years ago. Writing a foreword for Tripathi’s book, journalist Hartosh Singh Bal said, “The book also illustrates why, when done well, sting journalism remains an essential component of the profession, albeit one that must be used rarely and wisely. There are some stories, such as this, where their public importance is evident and overwhelming, where the information cannot be gathered in any other way, which justifies the use of hidden cameras and the concealment of a reporter’s identity.
“If Ram Rahim was finally convicted, it was because of a rare conjunction of events—a local journalist who had the courage to stand up to him and paid for it with his life; women who had been raped and men who had been castrated, standing up to threats of murder to testify in the case; a CBI officer who would not be cowed down and was, in turn, backed by his chief and the prime minister of the day; and Anurag Tripathi’s Tehelka team.”
We reproduce the excerpts from his book below:
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 . . .
My family members are blind followers of Maharaj (Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh). I became a sadhvi at my family’s bidding.
She went on to recount the first time she was called by the Dera chief inside his gufa (secret cave) and raped:
Two years after I became a sadhvi, Maharaj Gurmeet Singh’s close woman disciple, Gurjot, told me one night around 10 p.m. that I had been summoned to the ‘gufa’ [residence of Gurmeet Ram Rahim]. As I was going there for the first time, I was elated that God
himself had sent for me. When I went upstairs, I saw Maharaj sitting on the bed holding a remote control in his hand and watching a blue film on TV. Beside his pillow on the bed lay a revolver. Seeing this, I was stunned, I felt dizzy, as if the earth had moved from beneath my feet. I wondered what 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 to 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 and soul are mine now, he said.
When I objected, he said, ‘There is no doubt that I am God.’ When I asked if God also indulged in such acts, he shot back:
1. Sri Krishna too was God and he had 360 gopis [milkmaids] with whom he staged Prem Leela [Love Drama]. Even then people regarded him as God. This is not a new thing.
2. 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 very well that your family members cannot go against me.
3. I have considerable influence with 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 won’t leave any evidence behind. You know very well that I had got Dera manager Fakir Chand killed earlier. No one knows anything about him till date. Neither is there any evidence of the murder. With the power of my money, I can buy politicians, police and justice.
Thus, he raped me. For the past three months, my turn comes every twenty to thirty days. Now, I realize that he has been raping other girls staying with him.
Around thirty-five to forty women living at the Dera are thirty-five to forty years old and past marriageable age. They have compromised on their lives to be 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 scarves, are forbidden to look at men and keep a distance of five to ten 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 Maharaj. No girl is permitted to talk to another. As per the commands of 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 Maharaj. Just a few days ago, a Bathinda girl spoke about the wrongdoings of Maharaj. She was thrashed by other women disciples. She is still bedridden at her
home due to this assault.
Her father has left his service as a sevadar [servant of the Dera]. She is not telling anyone anything for the fear of Maharaj. Similarly, a girl from Kurukshetra district has also left the Dera and gone back home. When she narrated her suffering 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 people, the Dera’s armed sevadar 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, Firozpur, Patiala and Ludhiana districts [of Punjab] have gone back home and are keeping quiet as they have threats to their lives. Same is the fate of girls from Sirsa, Hisar, Fatehabad, Hanumangarh and Meerut, who are not uttering a word due to the muscle power of the Dera henchmen.
(This is an excerpt from Anurag Tripathi’s book “Dera Sacha Sauda and Gurmeet Ram Rahim,” published by Penguin Books in April 2018.)