New Delhi: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the leader of the religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda, is facing serious charges as he appears before a CBI court in Panchkula. However, the taint of a rape accusation against him is not enough to deter thousands of his followers to take to the streets in Panchkula and other parts of Punjab and Haryana in his support.
According to reports, Dera followers have been stocking up on petrol and arms. This poses a serious law and order challenge for the two states. Internet services have been shut, 150 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed and 22 trains through Punjab and Haryana have been cancelled. But why is it that 5 crore people continue to support Ram Rahim despite the rape charges?
In Punjab and Haryana, where caste divisions are deeply entrenched in society, Dera Sacha Sauda promises a caste-free society. The Dera chief has laid an emphasis on “equality and humility” which attracts people, particularly those from lower strata of society, to his sect. Moreover, the Dera offers subsidised food and medicine to those followers who come from underprivileged backgrounds.
Ram Rahim, during his time as Dera chief, has launched several public welfare projects, 104 of which are currently ongoing. The Dera has even won 13 Guinness Awards for de-addiction, ophthalmological, diabetes and cardiac clinics, tree-plantation and cleanliness drive. It has a 70,000-strong trained volunteer force for nationwide relief and rescue operations
Over the last ten years, Punjab has been in grip of a drug epidemic. The Dera claims it has rescued about five crore people from the clutches of alcoholism and drug abuse.