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Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the mystery-man of India at last got 20 years imprisonment for raping two of his disciples. He is known as the ostentatious leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda religious sect. Before the commencement of the court-proceedings a few days back, the situation in the northern town of Panchkula sparked a lot of unrest leaving at least35 people dead. Thousands of army, police and paramilitary units have been deployed and there are chances of spreading violence throughout India. According to the Hindustan Times the case registered against Gurmeet is not a new and fresh one; the matter was brought to the knowledge of the legal authorities through a three-page anonymous letter written in 2002 by a female devotee. But Gurmeet Singh and his followers have flatly rejected all allegations. Aditaya Insan, the sect’s spokesman said talking to the Indian channel NDTV, “For the last 15 years there has been a subterranean string of conspiracy of various forces. There are people at work that instigate us, there’s a drug Mafia at work, there is a political Mafia at work, to create these problems at the Dera.” He said that it is simply a greater conspiracy to bring them down. Gurmeet Singh has more than 50 million followers and is considered one of the most politically influential personalities of India. He enjoys a Z+ security cover which is only reserved for high-risk individuals such as cabinet ministers and Supreme Court judges and only 36 people in India are under that level of security cover provided by the government. Gurmeet enjoys such a very strong political position in India that politicians call on his sect in search for his “blessings” during elections.

Gurmeet Singh is a man with a very mysterious character. He was born in August 1967 at Sri Gurusar Modia village in Ganganager district of Rajasthan. At the age of 7, he was initiated into the Dera Sacha Sauda sect by his predecessor Shah Satnam Singh. On 23 September 1990, Shah Satnam publicly conferred sainthood and succession of the spiritual leadership upon Gurmeet Ram Rahim. He had been a music producer, actor and director in the beginning phase of his life. The Indian Express placed him 96th in their list of the 100 most powerful Indians of 2015. But the most dominating introduction to his personality is that he has a large number of followers among Dalits and Other Backward Classes. Political analysts are of the opinion that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has become a strong voice of the crushed ones in India particularly of the Dalits and other low-caste Hindus and he may prove a threat to the extremist-Hindus in the coming days. That is why the extremist Hindus are blaming him of his alleged involvement in rape, murder and forced castrations of his followers. But his followers have an altogether opinion about Gurmeet and his Dera. Prem Insaan is also one of Gurmeet’s followers. He is a resident of a colony near Bathinda Railway Station. He says, “There is so much discrimination in society on the basis of caste. Different communities and castes have their own Temples and Gurdawaras in Punjab and Haryana, but at our Dera all are equal. We all have one surname—Insaan—which means human. The Dera advocates humanity. We may be Hindu, Sikh or anything else, but we have failed to end caste divisions in society. At the Dera, these divisions get erased. The Dera life provides an equal status to all castes.” Swarn Insaan from Bathinda is also one of Gurmeet’s followers. A media-man asked him; what are the things that attract the followers to Gurmeet and his Dera? Swarn Insaan replied, “Subsidized food and free medicine is a huge attraction for the poor followers of Gurmeet Singh. The Dera headquarters in Sirsa and the district units provide subsidized ration to its members. This is a boon for the poor. Unlike government schemes which are often delayed or marred by corruption, the supply of subsidized ration at the Dera is smooth and equal for all.”

The belt comprising of Sangrur, Barnala, Mansa, Bathinda, Fazilka, Faridkot and Ferozepur districts has a large number of Gurmeet’s followers. The region, owing to the bad quality of water, is plagued by cancer and knee problems. The Dera Sacha Sauda offers free treatment to all such patients. A follower of Gurmeet Singh from Sangrur who himself is suffering from cancer said; “They have a system of providing free treatment. A Bhangi Dass (Dalit) collects slips from the followers in his area about the disease they are suffering from. He coordinates with the Dera headquarters and takes appointment. The free treatment acts as a great pull for poor patients or even those from middle-class families.” In short, Gurmeet is providing the basic human needs to the poor and deprived people particularly to those belonging to the low-caste Hindus. His growing popularity has become a threat to the supremacy and hegemony of the corrupt politicians and cruel extremist Hindu leaders.

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