New Delhi: Gurmeet Ram Rahim, the chief of Dera Sacha Sauda sect, is not new to controversies. With more than 60 million followers, the fifty-year old is not your usual trademark-styled godman.
His Twitter profile describes him as "Spiritual Saint/Philanthropist/Versatile Singer/Allrounder Sportsperson/Film Director/Actor/Art Director/Music Director/ Writer/Lyricist/Autobiographer/DOP".
As a special CBI court in Panchkula readies to deliver the verdict in a 15-year-old sexual exploitation involving the Dera chief, here's a look at some controversies the self-styled godman has been associated with.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee received an anonymous letter that claimed Singh raped two 'sadhvis' or female followers inside the premises of the Dera Sacha Sauda in Sarisa in 1999. The letter further claimed nearly 40 girls are under constant threat from Dera members.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), following the directives of High Court, filed a case of sexual exploitation against Singh in September 2002. CBI claims it has evidence to prove the rapes. Singh has denied all charges.
Singh has also been accused of two murders. In July 2002, the year when the anonymous letters appeared, Ranjit Singh – the manager of Dera Sacha Sauda, was allegedly shot dead on Singh's instructions. Later that year, in October, the editor of Poora Sach, Ram Chander Chhatrapati, was also shot because of covering the rape cases in his newspaper. The case is still under trial.
Disappearance and murder of Faqir Chand
Singh was probed in connection with the disappearance of his driver, Faqir Chand, who went missing in 1991. He was later acquitted in December 2010.
Imitating Lord Vishnu
In January 2016, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and All-India Hindu Federation accused Singh of hurting Hindu sentiments by dressing up as the Hindu god Vishnu in a video. Investigation is currently underway.
Guru Govind Singh impersonation
In 2007, Singh was accused of wearing costumes similar to that of Guru Govind Singh, the 10th guru of the Sikhs. He later apologised and charges removed in August 2014.
Mass Castration Charges
Nearly 400 Dera followers were allegedly castrated inside the sect’s headquarters. In 2014, the Punjab and Haryana High Court asked the CBI to investigate the case. In December 2016, the court announced that the castrations, though consensual, was not an “act of humanity.” The case is still pending in court.
Based on media reports, the Punjab and Haryana courts had ordered suo motu probe into the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters on suspicions of illegal arms training in 2014. The case was later closed due to lack of evidence.
Controversies around MSG Movie franchise
Singh’s MSG movie franchise was also embroiled in controversies. Several Sikh groups alleged that the movies were was offensive to their community. Many protested the film's portrayal of Adivasis as ‘anti-nationals.’
With agency inputs