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Operation Jhootha Sauda

Etmad A. Khan and Anurag Tripathi uncover a cesspool of crime at the Dera Sacha Sauda. Its chief, Baba Gurmeet Singh, is now charged with murder and rape

Operation Jhootha Sauda
A clip from the Tehelka exposé, first aired on India TV, on July 27, 2007

Gory murders, rapes and sexual exploitation, forced castrations, possession of illegal arms and ammunition — these are some of the heinous crimes committed in the guise of faith at the Dera Sacha Sauda, where the self-styled godman Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, popularly known as “Maharaj”, lords over a vulnerable constituency of followers from the Dera’s headquarters in Sirsa in Haryana.

A painstaking Tehelka investigation — first aired on India TV – has revealed that the Dera Sacha Sauda is a den of vice and Baba Gurmeet Singh guilty of rape and murder. Shortly after the story was broken, the cbi on July 31 filed its final chargesheets in three cases of murder and rape against the Baba in the special court in Ambala of Judge RN Bharti. The cbi, however, has not sought the arrest of Baba Gurmeet Singh. The chargesheets filed pertain to the murder of Dera manager Ranjit Singh, murder of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati and sexual exploitation of women in the Dera.

Khatta Singh, the Baba’s former driver who used to be part of his trusted inner circle, has admitted on Tehelka’s spy camera that the Baba raped a sadhvi and then had her brother, Ranjit Singh, killed. Khatta Singh, who is a cbi witness in the agency’s investigation against the Baba in three cases of murder and rape, also told Tehelka that he knew of at least seven murders committed by the Baba’s henchmen. He also said that sexual exploitation of the sadhvis living at the Dera’s premises was rampant, and there are several male followers who have been forcibly castrated on the Baba’s orders. Khatta said that a close aide of the Baba named Gurjot used to prepare a roster of girls who would “serve” the godman on any particular day. Many girls who refused to be so exploited were tortured. A lucky few who escaped from the Dera have given statements to the cbi, according to sources.

When a sadhvi wrote an anonymous letter in 2002 to then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee accusing the Baba of sexual abuse (printed in Tehelka’s June 2, 2007 issue) the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered a cbi probe into the complaint. Since then, the cbi has filed three chargesheets against the Baba Sources say that Ranjit Singh’s sister, who was teaching at the Dera’s girls’ school in Sirsa, has recorded her statement before a judicial magistrate under Section 164 of the crpc against the Baba accusing him of rape and molestation. She has given graphic details of how she was raped twice by the Dera chief in his “gufa” (underground chamber). The younger sadhvis are apparently housed a few metres from the chamber while the older ones are given langar (food) duty. Ranjit’s sister has also said that she fears her brother was killed by the Baba after he refused to return to the Dera. Khatta Singh corroborates this, saying that after Ranjit refused to return to the Dera, he was killed because the Baba feared that he would spill the beans. By that time, the cbi investigation had been ordered by the High Court. Until then, the charges of rape were only contained in the anonymous letter in which the sadhvi had also said that Baba Gurmeet Singh was fond of watching blue films. Ranjit was murdered at Khanpur Kolian in Kurukshetra on October 10, 2002. Khatta Singh in his statement to the cbi has also divulged names of the men who killed Ranjit.

While Ranjit’s murder has been covered in the media, Khatta Singh told Tehelka that there have been many more murders in which even an fir has not been registered. One such murder was of Fakir Chand, a long-time accountant at the Dera who had been close to Baba Satnam, the predecessor of Gurmeet Singh as the Dera chief. Khatta said that Fakir Chand was first beaten up mercilessly by the Baba’s men at a chamber of the Dera in Sirsa. Fakir Chand was asked to divulge all the details about the properties and accounts of the Dera. He was then taken to a house about seven kilometres away from the Dera, where he was once more beaten up and interrogated. According to Khatta, Fakir Chand was to be murdered two-three days after being shifted out of the Dera but he sustained a fatal injury during his interrogation and died. Khatta said that a former driver, Govind, along with men named Baldev Singh Bahedi, Sukhdev Singh Bawana and Resham, murdered Fakir Chand on the Baba’s orders.

To find out more about Fakir Chand, Tehelka travelled to his hometown, Diwankhera, a remote village near Sirsa, but such was the fear of the godman among the villagers that they were unanimous in saying that they did not want to invite trouble by speaking anything against the Baba. But a former member of the Dera’s Sirsa committee, Ram Kumar Bishnoi, told Tehelka that he had learnt of Fakir Chand’s murder from the Baba’s henchmen. “When I enquired about what’s going on at the Dera, I was told by the Baba’s men that when we have not left Fakir Chand then who are you. Only then did I realise why Fakir Chand was missing for two months from the Dera. After that, I immediately went to the nearest police station and told them that the Dera Prabhandak (Dera manager) had been murdered,” Bishnoi said. “I was at the Dera since 1971. The day I got to know about Fakir Chand, I stopped going there.”

Bishnoi said that the police refused to lodge a complaint, not even that Fakir Chand was missing. When Bishnoi left the Dera, the Baba’s men used to regularly visit his house asking him to come back or be ready to face the consequences. Bishnoi didn’t budge.

Khatta Singh also told Tehelka about the murder of Lakshman Das, a cook of the former Baba Satnam Singh. Khatta said that Das was murdered because he refused to acknowledge the authority of Baba Gurmeet Singh. After Das was murdered, a rumour was spread that he had committed suicide by consuming poison because he was mentally disturbed after the death of Baba Satnam Singh.

In yet another example of the Baba’s depravity, Khatta Singh told Tehelka about a boy named Raju who was killed after he protested his castration at the Dera. Raju was once a close aide of the Baba, and the godman feared that Raju might leave and expose all that happened in the Dera. Raju has been missing for several years now, and though his parents have approached the police and brought out several notices, there is no information on his whereabouts.

Khatta Singh told Tehelka that to ensure the loyalty of his men, Baba Gurmeet Singh has been getting their testicles removed through surgery at the Dera Sacha Sauda-owned hospital in Sirsa. Khatta said that if he is provided security, he can produce a number of people who can testify that there testicles have been removed.

The Dera chief has now been asked to appear before the special cbi court at Ambala on August The Dera spokesperson, Dr Aditya Insaan, says the charges are politically motivated. It is the Baba, however, who has been the one playing politics — his “vote for Congress” call in the Punjab Assembly polls helped the Congress win the Malwa belt. Charged now for two murders and a rape, the Baba will now have to give himself up, his agitating followers holding law and order to ransom, notwithstanding.

Writers e-mail: etmad@tehelka.com, anurag@tehelka.com

Aug 11 , 2007
Related Stories

Tehelka Expose: Operation Jhootha Saudha
Etmad A. Khan and Anurag Tripathi uncover a cesspool of crime at the Dera Sacha Sauda. Its chief, Baba Gurmeet Singh, is now charged with murder and rape.
‘Ranjit Singh was killed after his sister was raped’
Baba Gurmeet Singh’s former driver, Khatta Singh, spills the sordid beans on Tehelka’s spycam
From the Tehelka Archives:
Sword and Fire
The confrontation provoked by the Dera Sacha Sauda was carefully timed. Sikh hardliners have seized their opportunity, reports Vikram Jit Singh
Much vice at the seat of virtue
Gurmeet Singh came to be the current Dera head with a Khalistan leader’s help and has amassed a fortune ever since
High Court says CBI hushing up Dera cases
The CBI finds itself under pressure for filing chargesheets against the Dera in cases of murder and sexual abuse
‘It was hell'
In 2002, a woman devotee’s complaint of sexual exploitation by Baba Gurmeet Singh prompted a CBI inquiry into the charges

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