New Delhi: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s Twitter profile describes him as a “Spiritual saint/Philanthropist/Versatile singer/All-rounder sportsperson/Film director/Actor/Art director/Music director/Writer/Autobiographer”, and has a following of 3.2 million users.
There is no question that Ram Singh Rahim, self-styled godman chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) – one of the biggest deras (which are religious congregations) – is a man of different colours. But his description does contain the shades of blacks, mentions the Quint.
In 2007, the Godman came under controversy when he dressed up in an attire that allegedly resembled that of Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. This continues to attract the anger of many Sikhs till date. And now, a CBI court will pronounce the verdict in a case in which he has been accused of sexually assaulting two of his followers (sadhvis).
His brief history:
Ram singh Rahim was born in a rich landlord’s household of Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar on 15 August 1967, Rahim did not follow Sikhism, like his parents. Rather, he took over the Dera Sacha Sauda in 1990, which was established in 1948, at an age of 23. He became its third chief, succeeding Shah Satnam Singh.
The accounting of Rahim’s life on his website cites various spiritual and divine encounters in his early life. The website also says that a saint prophesied that “He shall go to Almighty Master” after he attained the age of 23.
Under his leadership, the DSS has considerably expanded its footprint, spreading its influence from its traditional Haryana-Punjab stronghold to Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, etc.
The influence is not just confined to India but extends to the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and the UAE where several Dera branches have been set up.
Ram Rahim and his organisation primarily draw support from the rural areas of Punjab and Haryana, and especially among Dalit Sikhs.
How Did ‘Guruji’ Become So Popular?
The answer seems to lie in the seamless integration of his glitzy, glamour-oriented image with his organisation’s proactive social welfare work that ranges from sanitation drives and disaster relief operations to fighting for the rights of transgenders.
Aditya Insaan, the DSS’ official spokesperson locates Ram Rahim’s aura in his rockstar image.
Youngsters these days only understand this (rockstar) language. A true guru is someone who adapts with time. And, that’s what Guruji is doing.
And he does seem like quite an active rockstar too, having at least six music albums to his name, all between 2012 and 2015 – Chashma Yaar Ka (2012), Network Tera Love Ka (2012), Highway Love Charger (2014), Lov Rab Se (2013), Insan (2012) and Thank You For That (2012).
Not only this, there are also five movies (three of which are part of the Messenger of God franchise) in which he has assumed not just the actor’s role, but also those of the director and the music composer. The sixth one (part of the Messenger of God franchise) is in the pipeline.
About rape and murder accusations:
While on one hand Ram Rahim is revered by thousands, on the other, his name has also figured in rape and murder cases. The rape case for which the verdict will be delivered on Friday dates back to 2002, based on the complaints of two sadhvis who said that they were sexually exploited by the godman at the sect’s headquarters in Haryana’s Sirsa.
The killing of DSS member Ranjit Singh on 10 July 2002 made the case even murkier, with Ram Rahim being named as an accused. Ranjit was believed to have been involved in the drafting of an anonymous letter making rape allegations against the DSS chief. Around the same time, Ram Chander Chhatrapati, a Sirsa-based journalist who reported on the nefarious happenings within the DSS, was also murdered.
However, one of the followers recounts: “I was hanging around my house with a couple of friends. Two gunmen came up and threatened to kill us. Guruji then magically appeared and dissuaded the terrorists from shooting at us,” Sukhanjot Singh, a supporter of Ram Rahim, to Business Standard in 2016.
This indicates that irrespective of what the judgment is in the rape case, Ram Rahim’s popularity is not fading away anytime soon.