Ram Rahim, Jailed in rape case, attends murder hearing via video link: 10 points

PANCHKULA:  Weeks after Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gumreet Ram Rahim Singh was sentenced to 20 years in prison for raping two of his women followers, the CBI court is today hearing arguments in two murder cases against the 50-year-old self-styled godman. Ram Rahim, who is currently lodged at Rohtak’s Sunaria jail, isn’t physically present in the court. He is attending the hearing through video conferencing. The CBI judge granted permission for video-conferencing yesterday after Panchkula DCP Manbir Singh’s said that they won’t be able to bring the Dera chief in person due to law and order problem.

Here is a 10-point low-down on the cases against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh:
  1. The hearing, related to the murder of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati and former Dera manager Ranjit Singh, allegedly by functionaries and followers of the sect, is being held in the court of special CBI judge Jagdeep Singh in Panchkula. CBI lawyer HPS Varma and defence lawyer SK Garg are present for the final arguments in the cases.
  2. The man, who is considered ‘pitaji‘ by his followers, has been named as the main conspirator in both the murders. Seven other accused have appeared in person.
  3. Ram Rahim’s former driver and a witness in the murder cases, Khatta Singh today approached the CBI court requesting to be allowed to record a fresh statement against the Dera chief. He had recorded his statement in 2007 before retracting in 2012. He did so, he claimed, because he was scared and under pressure. The court will hear his application on September 22.
  4. Ram Rahim was sentenced to 20 years in jail on August 28 in two separate rape cases by the same CBI court.
  5. The security agencies have strengthened the security cover in and around Panchkula in Haryana to avoid an encore of the violence that his conviction led to on August 25 when scores of Dera supporters damaged property worth crores in Panchkula, where the court announced its decision.
  6. Its ripple effect was witnessed in Sirsa, the headquarters of the sect and other towns in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. According to the police, about 40 people were killed and over 200 were left injured in the violence.
  7. “We have made adequate security arrangements ahead of the hearing in the cases,” Haryana Director General of Police BS Sandhu said. Contingents of paramilitary troops and the Haryana Police have been stationed in Panchkula to prevent any untoward incident, he added.
  8. Mr Chhatrapati was shot at in October, 2002 after his evening newspaper, ‘Poora Sach‘, published an anonymous letter by women alleging sexual exploitation by the sect head at the Dera headquarters. He died later.
  9. Former Dera manager Ranjit Singh was also allegedly shot dead the same year. He was allegedly murdered for his suspected role in the circulation of the anonymous letter by the victims.
  10. The ‘guru of bling’ has also been accused of forcing 400 Dera followers to undergo castration so they could “get closer to God”.