Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh three others awarded life imprisonment sentencing
Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim and three others have been sentenced to life imprisonment for the killing of journalist Ram Chander Chhatarpati. The special CBI court in Panchkula pronounced the quantum of sentence on Thursday. A fine of Rs 50,000 each has also been imposed by the Court.
The court had found them guilty of murder and conspiracy on January 11 and convicted them under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The case dates back to 2002 when the journalist was murdered in Sirsa city in Haryana after he ran a story in his newspaper, ‘Poora Sach’, about the alleged sexual exploitation of women by the Dera chief.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh sentencing HIGHLIGHT: The case dates back to 2002 when the journalist was murdered in Sirsa city in Haryana after he ran a story in his newspaper, ‘Poora Sach’, about the alleged sexual exploitation of women by the Dera chief.
The CBI has allowed Ram Rahim, who is currently serving a 20-year term in connection with another case, to appear for the hearing via video-conferencing. The state had sought permission for the same as a precautionary measure, citing the violence that broke out after his conviction in 2017. The other three convicts, Krishan Lal, Kuldeep Singh and Nirmal Singh, will appear before court.
This is the triumph of truth, says son of the murdered journalist
This is the triumph of truth, I feel relieved today. The prosecution had demanded capital punishment but we’re satisfied with the punishment, said Journalist Ramchandra Chhatarpati’s son Anshul on court pronouncing the quantum of sentence to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
Fine of Rs 50,000 imposed on all four convicts
The Special CBI Court in Panchkula also imposed a fine of Rs 50, 000 each on all the convicts.
Former driver, a prime witness in murder case of journalist Ram Chander Chhatarpati
Khatta singh, the former driver of the rape convict Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was a prime CBI witness in the murder case of journalist Ram Chander Chhatarpati. Khatta Singh’s statement proved crucial in nailing Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
Recalling the sequence of events Khatta Singh said, “On October 23, 2002, Gurmeet Ram Rahim returned after attending a gathering of his followers in Jalandhar when then Dera manager, Krishan Lal, showed him the newspaper ‘Poora Sach’. The paper, owned by Ram Chander Chhatarpati, carried a report accusing Gurmeet Ram Rahim of sexually exploiting women at the Dera. Kuldeep Singh and Nirmal Singh were also with Krishan Lal. Gurmreet Ram Rahim lost his cool and ordered to ‘silence the voice of the man’ behind the newspaper. Next day, on October 24, 2002, I received a call from my house that the journalist had been shot at”.
What the conviction of Gurmeet Ram Rahim means for the Dera and politics in the region
Already undergoing a 20-year sentence on rape charges, Friday’s conviction on murder and criminal conspiracy charges have come as a severe blow to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. The maximum sentence that can be given to the Dera chief, in this case, is death and the minimum, life imprisonment. He will be able to avail the legal remedy of challenging the verdict in higher courts of law.
Until August 2017 when he was first convicted on rape charges, the Dera chief had immense clout in the region’s political circles. Neither BJP, nor Congress could afford to antagonise the Dera’s lakhs of followers, seen as a “consolidated vote bank” by politicians.
Dozens of top leaders from both the parties used to visit Dera, seeking the chief’s “blessings”, read support, especially when elections were approaching.
In Punjab, the Dera supported the Congress in the 2007 Assembly polls. In 2012, however, it chose to remain neutral, and followers were left to decide on their own. In the 2014 Haryana Assembly elections, however, the Dera came out in full support of the BJP, which came to power with an absolute majority in Haryana for the first time, winning 47 seats in the 90-member Vidhan Sabha.
In the 2017 Assembly elections in Punjab, the Dera supported the BJP-Akali alliance. The Dera chief’s son is married to a Congress leader and former MLA in Punjab, Harminder Singh Jassi.
After Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s conviction on rape charges, his family decided not to appoint any successor. After an initial phase of turmoil, normalcy returned to the Dera’s headquarters in Sirsa. The Dera has got back to its routine satsangs and weekly congregations. However, the numbers of followers have reduced.
A majority of the Dera’s followers are Dalits and from the backward castes. With Lok Sabha polls due in a few months and Assembly polls in Haryana following soon afterwards, it remains to be seen how political parties approach this vote bank.
– Microstat/ New Delhi/ Panchkula /January 17, 2019