Chandigarh: Female disciples or ‘sadhvis’ of the controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect were forced to seek ‘mafi’ (pardon) from its chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, at his whims and fancies. For those who did not know what ‘mafi’ meant, it turned to be rape by the man whom they considered their god.
The DSS chief, who turned 50 last month, was sentenced by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court judge Jagdeep Singh to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment — 10 years for each count of rape.
Investigations by the CBI, as quoted in the judgment, describe a ‘gufa’ (cave) of the accused inside the sprawling 600-acre campus of the DSS sect near Sirsa town in Haryana.
One of the rape victims told the court and the CBI that she heard of the word ‘mafi’ from other sadhvis.
“The other sadhvis used to ask her (Victim A) as to whether ‘pitaji’ (father, as Ram Rahim is referred to by his followers) had granted ‘mafi’ to her or not, but at that time she did not understand the meaning of the word. When she used to ask from them as to what was the meaning of ‘mafi, they used to laugh at her,” the judgment, quoting the statement of one of the rape victims, said.
It was on the night of August 28, 1999, that the victim was taken by DSS ashram in-charge Sudesh to the ‘gufa’ of the self-styled godman. The victim gave details of what happened inside the gufa and how she was raped by the person whom she considered her god.
The victim said that Ram Rahim told her that she had become ‘apavitar’ (unholy) because of her past deeds and that he was going to purify her. The Dera chief, who was watching a porn film when the victim entered his room, even had a pistol on the bed to intimidate her. After committing the rape, he warned her against relating the incident to anyone, failing which she and her family would be eliminated.
The same victim was again raped by the sect chief after a year.
Almost a similar modus operandi was adopted while committing rape on Victim-B in September 1999.
The CBI investigation revealed that out of the 133 sadhvis residing in two hostels of the DSS campuses, 24 had left during 1997-2002. The CBI, which was entrusted the inquiry into happenings at the DSS campus after an anonymous letter of rape and sexual exploitation of sadhvis by the sect chief emerged in 2002, could trace only 18 sadhvis who had faced exploitation during their stay.
“Both the prosecutrix, i.e. prosecutrix-A and prosecutrix-B, have stood like rocks and credibility of these witnesses/victims could not be impeached despite very lengthy cross-examination and they have consistently deposed that they were ravished by the accused while residing in the Dera campus,” the 167-page conviction judgment noted.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)