The sleepy town of Panchkula in Haryana was abuzz with noise as CBI was scheduled to declare its verdict against Gurmeet Ram Rahim, the controversial Godman, and head of Dera Sacha Sauda sect, who has been accused of raping two sadhvis in 2002. An unprecedented amount of security arrangement had been put in place, with the Haryana government promising that the verdict would not result in mass violence. Ram Rahim, the 50-year old who runs this sect has an enormous community of devoted followers, hundreds of who flocked to Panchkula ahead of the CBI verdict. A man of many colours he has also been seated in the lap of controversy.
Christened to lead the Dera since 1990, in 2002 the first allegations of sexual harassment were brought up against him. This was followed by an anonymous letter which stated that the sect head had sexually exploited two sadhvis in his premises. In 2002, he was also linked to the alleged murder of a journalist. In 2014 he was also blamed for involvement in practices of forced castration of several sadhus practising under his guidance. Wrapped in controversy he has not failed to gather the support and love of thousands and lakhs of 'premis,' as Dera supporters are nicknamed. As the verdict was to be announced, heavy security measures had to be deployed to contain the frenzied mob who had gathered hoping that their holy father would be cleared of all charges. However, the CBI ruled otherwise, charging him guilty of his offences. He has been taken into custody until a full sentence is read out on Monday.
This spells ill for the thousands of Dera supporters who instantly began to instigate mob violence. Five immediate deaths were reported in Panchkula from riots that broke out despite Haryana Chief Minister Khattar assuring that all measures were taken to control mob outrage. Immediate curfew had to be imposed in Panchkula while incidences of violence were reported from Punjab too where railways station were set ablaze. Many questioned why the mob had at all been allowed to accumulate in such large numbers. The Deras are known for their immense show of strength. Being a massive conglomerate their vote has proven to be crucial in state elections of Punjab and Haryana. In 2014, the Deras had uniformly voted for the BJP-bringing them to power.
A reason many allege that restricted Chief Minister Khattar from meting out strict measures that would prevent the large mass from gathering in Panchkula. As riots continued on the streets, several ministers and the head of state remained locked deliberating on how to manage the damage that had already been inflicted. Thousands that gathered at Panchkula were a reminder to the intellectual society that the mindset of India still somewhere remains stuck in primitivity. It is baffling to think that a known offender continues to evoke such immense respect and devotion in the eyes of common people—who gathered without direct motive or palpable gain, to sacrifice their lives for a rapist. Those that hail him as a hero are the very cause that we still remain shackled in the past unable to preserve modern day dignity.