Haryana’s self-styled godman, Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh, known to wield an unmatched clout over 50 million blind followers, was declared a rapist by a CBI court in Panchkula on Friday. His army of disciples moved in with lightening speed to ‘deliver’ on their ‘promises’ of wiping out India from the world’s map. Within hours, as many as 30 people had died with more than 250 injured.
TV crew reporting on the cult guru’s rape conviction were the early targets of armed goons of Dera Sacha Sauda chief. OB Vans, used to transmit live footage back to TV studios, were damaged and even set ablaze while some criminals even brutally assaulted journalists. Thankfully, no reporter lost his or her life while reporting on the rapidly developing story. The visuals coming from Sirsa and Panchkula in Haryana were dramatic and smacked of a complete breakdown of law and order in the state’s Manohar Lal Khattar government.
Khattar was capable of avoiding the mayhem that saw more than 30 people lose their lives and left crores of public and private properties damaged. He was warned, by no less than the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which rightly envisaged a potential bloodshed by Dera chief’s crazy followers.
It seems the Khattar administration had collapsed long before the CBI court pronounced its verdict against the controversial baba. In an extraordinary move, the High Court took it upon itself to direct the Centre’s Narendra Modi government to make urgent deployment of troops in the state. Usually, seeking military help is the job of the elected government in Indian democracy unless the state in question is grappling with utter lawlessness.
Justice SS Saron, who was heading the division bench on this matter, had directed the additional solicitor general of India, Satya Pal Jain, to take up the matter with the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure troop deployment ahead of the verdict in the rape case. Justice Saron asked Khattar government’s police how on earth the gathering of such large number of dera followers was allowed in Panchkula. He said that the High Court would not hesitate to dismiss the state DGP, if situation turned volatile.
Yet, Haryana quickly descended into anarchy with criminals terrorising population with impunity.
Khattar’s reluctance to act tough against Dera supporters emanates from his obsession with self-proclaimed godmen. The Haryana chief minister is not alone when it comes to paying obeisance to these self-styled gurus. From PM Modi to the BJP President Amit Shah, almost every BJP leader has been smitten by babas’ popularity and their clout over what subsequently works as a lucrative vote-bank.
In 2015, soon after Khattar became the state’s chief minister out of nowhere, he extended a cabinet rank to another controversial baba and founder of Patanjali Ayurved, Ramdev when he was made the state’s brand ambassador for Yoga.
In August last year, a national controversy erupted after the photo of a nude monk addressing the lawmakers inside the state assembly went viral. What became a topic of intense conversation was the way Khattar administration had made the monk, Tarun Sagar, sit on a dais, above the seats of the Governor, Chief Minister and MLAs.
Khattar’s boss, PM Modi, was once an ardent fan of another godman, Asaram Bapu, now behind bars in rape cases, with his son, Narayan Sai.
Another baba, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who has a sprawling ashram in Bengaluru, has been close to the saffron party and even endorsed Modi’s candidature as the future prime minister in 2014 claiming that India will become an economic super power under him.
Both Khattar and his bosses have been cosying up to these self-proclaimed babas because of their huge followers, who contributed to the BJP’s victory in 2014 and assembly elections that followed.
In Dera chief’s case, Khattar government of Haryana had announced tax exemption for six months on movie ‘Jattu Engineer’ featuring Singh in May this year. Last year, on 28 August, Khattar’s sports and health minister, Anil Vij, handed over a cheque of Rs 50 lakh to Singh from his discretionary fund for his contribution to promoting rural sports. It’s still not clear whether the rape convict godman indeed made any contribution towards promoting sports. Because there’s absolutely no tangible evidence to corroborate that claims except a viral video (watch below) where the godman claims to be behind the cricketing successes of Waquar Yunus, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan among others.
A day later, another member of Khattar’s cabinet, Manish Grover, too had announced Rs 11 lakh to the dera sports village. This was widely seen as Khattar reciprocating the Dera chief’s support for the BJP in the 2014 assembly elections.
Dera chief’s fall from grace lesson for arrogant netas
The court will pronounce the quantum of punishment for Singh on 28 August. Experts say that the controversial baba, known for his lavish lifestyle and love for glamour, may end up spending at least seven years in jail. His conviction is yet another example of a spectacular fall from grace in public life. It was this arrogance that perhaps strengthened his belief that he was above the law. Testament to this was how he, as a rape accused, turned up in the court in a VVIP cavalcade consisting of more than 100 cars. One can’t blame him for believing that with over 5 crore die-hard supporters, willing to do anything for their ‘God,’ no one could ever muster courage to take punitive action against him. He was accorded Z category security not because he had any more threat to his life than an average Indian, but it was to endorse the stature of his super-human being, albeit fake.
Singh’s entry into hall of shame must serve as a lesson to India’s political class, known for exuding similar arrogance, that there’s absolutely no substitute to being answerable to ordinary public regardless of how invincible they may feel after strings of electoral successes.
(Rifat Jawaid is the editor-in-chief of Janta Ka Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @RifatJawaid)