With Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh being sentenced to 20 years in prison, the focus has shifted to the appeals to be filed in the Punjab and Haryana high court and to questions of succession within the Dera.
New Delhi: A day after the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a special CBI court for raping two female followers, the Haryana government has sent a detailed report to the Centre on the recent events involving his court appearance and the violence in Panchkula that followed his conviction, which left 38 dead and hundreds injured.
The report by the Haryana government – which was pulled up by the Punjab and Haryana high court on at least three occasions for its mishandling of the situation and for allowing Singh’s followers to assemble in large numbers in Panchkula – assumes significance since despite the scathing observations of the court, the central leadership of the BJP has stood firmly behind chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and defended his actions.
The Haryana government’s report also plays safe by not delving into the ‘lapses’ and sticking more to the sequence of events. The government has, however, spelt out the damage to both public and private property in detail. It had on August 28 also issued a notice appealing to all residents to file their claims for damages within a fortnight. The high court had on August 25 directed the state government to seize all properties of the Dera to compensate the victims of arson and violence.
Focus shifts to succession, appeal in high court
With Singh now firmly behind bars, the focus has shifted to the twin issues of who would succeed him and the appeal in the Punjab and Haryana high court which the Dera is to file. Ahead of the appeal, the Chandigarh administration has already started taking steps to prevent a repeat of the August 25 violence. It is drawing up elaborate plans to prevent the Dera followers from assembling in the city ahead of the moving of the application on behalf of Singh.
Even as speculation is rife on who among Dera chairperson Vipassana Insan, Singh’s son Jasmeet and adopted daughter Priyanka Taneja alias Honeypreet would succeed him, the Dera has maintained a stoic silence on the subject. It had earlier insisted that the focus now would be on the plea against the CBI court verdict in the high court.
While the Dera head had himself anointed Jasmeet to be his successor nearly a decade ago, the challenge from the other two women contenders is serious since the Dera has followed a tradition of not having the blood relatives of the leaders as their successors.
While Insan holds the key post in the Dera and runs its day-to-day operations, Honeypreet is said to be a close confidante of Singh. She is also the one who had accompanied him from Panchkula to Rohtak after his conviction.
Singh is the third head of the Dera, which was founded by Mastana Maharaj in 1948. He had taken over the reins in 1990 from Shah Satnam Singh, who had become the second head in 1960.
Cases against Singh’s commandos
Meanwhile, as the law and order in Haryana limps back to normalcy after four or five very strenuous days of standoff and violence, the police has begun acting against all those who resorted to mindless violence.
Among those who have been booked for instigating violence are five security guards of Singh who had been deployed by the Haryana police but who had later become his followers. An FIR was registered against them at Chandigarh for allegedly planning to damage some government buildings following Singh’s conviction. They were caught in the possession of a pistol and 25 cartridges.
These five police officers along with Singh’s two personal security officers were also booked by the Haryana police for allegedly trying to free Singh after he was convicted by the CBI court in Panchkula. They were also accused of misbehaving with the inspector general of police (Karnal range) Subhash Yadav, during the episode.
The Haryana government had earlier sacked deputy advocate general Gurdas Singh Salwara after he was caught on camera carrying a suitcase of the Dera head following his conviction.
Very few followers remain at Dera headquarters
In Sirsa, where the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters is located, the district administration today said that 650 more people were removed from the premises and sent to their respective destinations and with this just about 250-300 people now remain in the Dera.
The authorities had also found 18 minor girls in the Dera and they were brought out on completion of necessary legal formalities. Deputy commissioner Prabhjot Singh said these girls were at present under the supervision of a child protection officer and they would later be sent to child protection institutes being run at different places.
Even as the educational institutions and banks reopened today and the curfew was lifted till 7 pm, the official said it would continue during the night as a preventive measure.