How a godman turned into a ‘Darinda’ for the inmates of Dera Sacha Sauda

The 167-page judgment of the special CBI court in Panchkula details the ordeal of the two victims who mustered the courage to speak up against their ‘God’.

WrittenBy:Shruti Menon
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Dr Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan was found guilty of rape (IPC Section 376), criminal intimidation (Section 506) and outraging the modesty of a woman (Section 509) on August 25 leading to incidences of violence in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and parts of Delhi. A week after the Dera chief’s conviction, Justice Jagdeep Singh’s verdict lists out the ordeal of the two victims who “gathered courage and came out to unravel the misdeeds of the Dera Chief”.

The 167-page judgment contains details of the investigation, the evidence collected by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for the prosecution of the defendant, Baba Ram Rahim. 

While the judgment states that the names of the victims shall not be revealed in the interest of “preventing social victimisation and ostracism”, the names of the relatives of the victims have not been hidden.  

Statements of prosecutrix A and B–as the witnesses have been denoted in the judgment–were recorded under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc). Statement of prosecutrix A, who resided in the Dera Sacha Sauda from July 1999 to April 2001, was also recorded under Section 164 of CrPc on March 19, 2007. Both the victims have explained in their statements how every Sadhvi was put on “sentry duty” at the gate of the ‘Gufa’- the place where the Baba resided when at the Dera- once every 20 days. 

One of the victims’ statements contains the names of four Sadhvis who came out of the ‘Gufa’ either abusing the Dera chief or weeping. One of the Sadhvis was taken away by her parents after she returned from the Dera chief’s ‘Gufa’ weeping. The victim alleged that the Dera chief raped her twice but could not leave the Dera due to familial obligations. 

From Godman to ‘Darinda

The judgment details the ordeal of the two victims in the ‘Gufa‘. The first victim who testified against the Dera chief explained during the investigation that she was called into the ‘Gufa’ and asked to sit on the bed next to the accused. The victim then recalls that she was asked about the mistakes committed by her and shown letters written to her by a boy. The accused began “fondling” her body even as he went on about her “mistakes”. She was later told that her mistakes had been forgiven after Baba’s ‘mafi’- as he put it- and her rape had made “pavitra”. 

“…she complained to him that she had been treating him as God, then he told her that God Krishna also used to do like this.”

But almost a year later, after the victim was moved from the New Dera to the Old Dera, which is located on the same premise, she was called into the ‘Gufa‘ again. The judgment reads thus: 

“… When she entered the Gufa, accused Baba Gurmeet Singh closed the door of the Gufa and caught hold of her and when she threatened to shout, then accused told her that her voice would not go out of the room and when she threatened to tell everything to her brother Ranjit Singh, then accused Baba Gurmeet Singh told her that Ranjit Singh, being a staunch disciple would not believe her and when she insisted that her brother would definitely believe her, then caused told her that he would get Ranjit Singh killed and buried. That she tried to get herself released from the clutches of the accused but to no avail and accused forcibly raped her against her will and consent….”

The victim testified that she later saw another Sadhvi weeping and coming out of the ‘Gufa’ and advised her to leave the Dera as their ‘pitaji’ was a “Darinda in the guise of God”, the judgment reads.

It further states that 5-6 months after the second incident, the accused tried to threaten her that if she told someone, he would kill her entire family. The victim eventually left the Dera with her brother’s daughters. The judgment later notes that Ranjit, also a Dera follower, was murdered in 2002 after he expressed his reservations against the Dera and its chief. The allegations were corroborated by the victim’s husband Paramjit Singh. 

Similarly, the second victim (prosecutrix B) was also subjected to rape and threats at the hands of the Dera chief which was later confirmed from the victim’s husband. 

“…accused called her inside the Gufa at about 10.00 p.m. and she thought that Maharaj may have some work as she regarded him as Bhagwan (God) and therefore she went inside the Gufa.”

The victims kept the ordeal to themselves even as they were asked by their fellow inmates when found weeping. The victim then left the Dera after telling her parents about the incident and did not report it to any law enforcing agencies. Even as the victim got married in 2000, her husband suspected her virginity and that’s when she told her husband about her rape by the Dera chief.

While the Special Crime Branch, CBI took up the investigation in 2002, the second victim and her husband were made to sign affidavits to not make any statements against the Dera or its chief. The victim and her family also got several calls from the Dera, asking them not to appear before the CBI officer.

She deposed in front of the CBI that she and her family received “threatening telephone calls from the Dera and stated that he also received such threatening calls 3-4 days prior to the filing of the chargesheet by the CBI, thereby pressurising them to change their statements in the court”. 

The defence’s argument

The accused was questioned based on the evidence collected by the CBI, who denied the allegations, claimed innocence and said that these were mere attempts to malign him and his Dera. The judgment reads thus: 

“…(the accused) pleaded that he promotes de-addiction of liquor, inspire people against female foeticide, carried out hundreds of social welfare activities and drug Mafia, anti religious people, political persons and other Dera institutions are against him…..Accused has further pleaded that he had never raped anyone and since 1990 he is not medically or physically fit to do sex with anyone and that he is not potent.” 

The accused also added in his defence that there were no restrictions on Sadhus and Sadhvis in the Dera, contrary to the testimonies given by the victims and other witnesses. He also submitted that the prosecutrix B was married in 2000 and sought his blessings before getting married.

While the victims have categorically mentioned in their statements that they left the Dera sometime after their ‘pitaji’- as they called him- raped them, the accused had a different story to tell. He said that one victim left the Dera on the pretext of getting married and the other left after her “love letters fell into the hands of the Manager Paramjit and Sudesh Warden”. 

Remember the anonymous letter from 2002 that was published by a local newspaper in Sirsa that got a journalist killed? The accused alleged that the letter was concocted in an attempt to frame him. “…Vijay Kumar and Raja Ram Handia admitted that aforesaid obscene letter was typed by them and circulated in order to defame Dera Sacha Sauda…”, reads the judgment.

Given that the CBI could not ascertain who wrote the anonymous letter detailing the offence, the defence held that it could not be held as evidence against the accused.

The defence arguments also said that the daughters of the accused, Amanpreet and Charanpreet were residing in the Dera hostel and held that “it is highly improbable that any person would commit alleged offences inside the Dera premises where his own daughters were also residing”. 

The court, based on an earlier verdict of the Supreme Court, held that evidence of a victim of rape or sexual exploitation would not be viewed with “doubt, disbelief or suspicion”. Justice Singh further wrote that no self-respecting woman would come make humiliating statements about the commission on rape on her in court.

“…the court is entitled to base conviction on evidence of prosecutrix unless the same is shown to be infirm and not trustworthy and prosecutrix has strong motive to falsely involve the accused.”

The judgment further states that the non-establishment of the author of the anonymous letter “did not create any dent n the consistent, reliable and truthful testimonies of both the prosecutrixes”. Explaining why the victims did not undergo a medical examination, as argued by the defence, the judge also said that the testimonies of the victims were found to be “cogent, reliable, convincing and trustworthy”.

As to the claim of impotency made by the defence, well the court said that the accused did not go through a medical examination to prove his impotency, and held the defence’s argument as “devoid of any substance”.

The author can be contacted on Twitter @shrutimenon10.


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