Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the rape of two women followers in 2002.
The sentencing came three days after the CBI court in Panchkula convicted Singh in a 2002 rape case. Due to risks of rising tensions in parts of Haryana and Punjab over the sentencing, the judge was flown into the special courtroom setup inside the Sunaria jail in Rohtak in a helicopter. A three-tier security ring was set up around the district jail.
According to Zee News, During the hearing of arguments in the court before the sentencing, the prosecution asked for maximum punishment for Singh. The defense counsels have argued that Ram Rahim was an active social worker–an argument that seems to have worked in his favour as the court didn’t announce the life imprisonment.
After Singh was convicted in the rape case on August 25, the followers of the Dera resorted to violent protests across several parts of Haryana and Delhi. At least 38 people were killed and more than 200 injured in the violence.
The charges against Gurmeet Ram Rahim date back to 2002, when a Dera sadhvi wrote an anonymous letter to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee saying she was raped by the Dera chief. In the letter, the sadhvi also accused Gurmeet Ram Rahim of raping several other female followers inside the sprawling Dera campus on the outskirts of Sirsa in the state of Haryana.
Following the letter, a case was registered by the CBI against the self-styled godman after allegations of sexual exploitation of the sadhvis. The sadhvis reportedly made shocking allegations against Ram Rahim and two of them accused him of having raped them on account of ‘purity’. The hearing in the case has been on since 2007 when the CBI filed a chargesheet against the Dera chief.