All Truth about Sacha Sauda; Inside details of his wrongdoings
A SADHVI's letter to PMO dated December, 2002.
Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee
Prime Minister New Delhi
I am a girl hailing from Punjab State. I have been serving as a 'Sadhwi' in 'Dera Sacha Sauda', Sirsa (Haryana) for the last five years. Beside me, there are hundreds of others girl here, who serve for 18 hours daily. But we are sexually exploited here. The 'Dera Maharaj' Gurmit Singh rapes the girls in the 'dera'. I am a graduate. My family has blind faith in the 'Maharaj' (Gurmit Singh). It was at my family's bidding that I became a 'Sadhwi'. Two years after I became a 'Sadhwi', a special woman-disciple of Maharaj Gurmit Singh came to me one night at 10' o' clock and said that the Maharaj had summoned me to his room. I felt elated that Maharaj himself sent for me. I was going to him for the first time. After climbing the stairs, when I went into his room, I saw that he was holding a remote in his hand and was watching a blue film on the TV. Beside his pillow on the bed, lay a revolver. Seeing all this, I was frightened and became nervous. I had never imagined that Maharaj was a man of this type. Maharaj switched off the TV and seated me beside him. He offered me water and said that he had called me because he considered me very close to him. This was my first experience. Maharaj took me in his embrace and said that he loved me from the core of his heart. He also said that he wanted to make love with me. He told me that at the time of becoming his disciple, I had dedicated my wealth, body and soul to him and he had accepted my offering. When I objected he said, "There is no doubt that I am God." When I asked if God also indulges in such acts, he shot back:
1. Sri Krishna too was God and he had 360 'gopis' (milkmaids) with whom he enacted 'Prem lila' (love drama). Even then people regarded him as God. So there is nothing to be surprised at it.
2. I can kill you with this revolver and bury you here. The members of your family are my devoted followers and they have blind faith in me. You know it very well that members of your family cannot go against me.
3. I have considerable influence with governments also. Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana and central Ministers come to pay obeisance to me. Politicians take help from us. They cannot take any action against me. We will get the members of your family dismissed from govt. jobs and I will get them killed by my 'Sewadars' (servants). We will leave no evidence of their murder. You know that earlier also we got the 'dera' Manager Fakir Chand killed by goondas. His murder remains untraced till this day. The 'dera' has a daily income of one crore rupees with which we can buy leaders, police and the judges.
After this, the Maharaj raped me. The Maharaj has been doing this with me for the last three years. My turn comes after every 25-30 days. Now I have learnt that before me too, the Maharaj had been raping the girls he had summoned. Most of these women are now 35 to 40 years old and they are past the age of marriage. They have no other option but to remain in the 'dera'. Most of the girls are educated --- B.A., M.A., B.Ed, etc. But they are living a life of hell in the 'dera', simply because the members of their families have blind faith in the Maharaj. We wear white clothes, tie a scarf on the head, cannot even look at men and as per Maharaj's commands, talk with men from a distance of 5-10 feet. To the people we look like 'devis' (goddesses), but we are living like harlots. This time I tried to tell my family that all was not well at the 'dera'. But they rebuked me saying that there was no better place than the 'dera' for here they were in the company of God (Maharaj). They said that I had formed a bad notion about the 'dera' and that I should recite the name of 'Satguru'. I am helpless here because I have to obey every command of the Maharaj. No girl is permitted to talk with another. According to the commands of the Maharaj, girls are not permitted to talk to their families even on the telephone. If any girl talks about the reality of the 'dera', she is punished according to Maharaj's commands. Sometimes ago, a Bhatinda girl revealed the wrong doings of the Maharaj. At this, all the women disciples gave her a sound thrashing. Because of a fracture in the backbone, she is now bed-ridden. Her father gave up the service in the 'dera' and went home. For fear of the Maharaj and his own disgrace, he is not revealing anything.
Similarly, a Kurukshetra girl has also left the 'dera' and has gone home. When she narrated the events in the 'dera' to her family, her brother who worked in the 'dera' gave up his job. When a Sangrur girl left the 'dera', went home and narrated the wrong-doings in the 'dera' to the people, the dera's armed Sewadars/ hooligans reached the girl's house and threatened to kill her and warned her not to leak anything about the 'dera'.
Similarly girls from Mansa, Ferozepur, Patiala and Ludhiana districts are afraid of revealing anything about the 'dera'. Although they have left the 'dera', yet they do not say anything for fear of loosing their lives. Similarly, girls from Sirsa, Hissar, Fatehabad, Hanuman Garh and Meerut disclose as to what happened to them in the 'dera.
If I reveal my name, I and my family will be killed. I want to reveal this truth for the benefit of the common man, because I cannot bear all this tension and harassment. My life is in danger. If a probe is conducted by the press or some govt. agency, 40 to 50 girls living in the 'dera' will come forward to reveal the truth. We can also be medically examined to find out whether we are still celibate disciples or not. If we are no longer virgins, the matter should be gone into to find out who has violated our chastity. The truth will then come out that Maharaj Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh of 'Sacha Sauda' has ruined our lives.
Murder of Journalist
The Dera Sacha Sauda in Haryana and its head are under investigation in connection with the murder of a journalist and charges of sexual exploitation of women followers of the sect.
Ram Chandra Chatrapati, editor of Poora Sach, who died of bullet injuries.THE death, on November 21, 2002 of Ram Chandra Chatrapati, the 53-year-old editor of Poora Sach (Complete Truth), an evening daily from Sirsa, Haryana, at the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media. On the night of October 24, two men riding a motorcycle, claiming to be followers of a religious sect called Dera Sacha Sauda, had shot at him four times from point-blank range. The sect, headquartered in Sirsa, claims a following of more than one crore people and has branches in many States. The Master of the Dera is Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh Ji, popularly known as Maharaj.
The activities of the Dera attracted attention in May after an anonymous letter alleging sexual exploitation by Maharaj came to light. The issue was reported by several newspapers, and Chatrapati had consistently written about the Dera's activities since then. The letter, written by a female disciple of Maharaj, or a sadhvi, was addressed to the Prime Minister and its copies had been marked to the Union Home Minister, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Haryana Chief Minister, the Sirsa Superintendent of Police, the National Human Rights Commission, newspapers and women's and social organisations. It was alleged in the letter that several girls had been subject to exploitation.
The sadhvi stated that she was a graduate and had been in the Dera (spread over 700 acres, or 280 hectares) for the last five years. Her family, being very religious, had sent her there to serve as a sadhvi. She alleged that Gurmit Singh threatened to kill her if she reported the goings-on in the Dera to anyone. He also boasted, as stated in the letter, about the influence he wielded with politicians in Punjab and Haryana.
It is well known that leading politicians from both the States have visited the Dera to seek the blessings of Maharaj. Prominent among them are former Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala.
The letter alleged sexual exploitation of several girls, many of whom had post-graduate and even M.Phil degrees. They were "leading a life in hell due to the superstitious nature and dead faith of their family members", it said, and added that many girls from Mansa, Ferozepur, Patiala and Ludhiana districts of Punjab had returned to their homes but kept quiet out of fear. The three-page letter in Hindi also detailed how a sadhvi from Bhatinda in Punjab, was beaten up by the rest of the sadhvis, when she tried to disclose the deeds of Maharaj. Some 45 girls were living in fear and insecurity but were ready to disclose everything in confidence, the letter stated.
On September 3, taking suo motu notice of the letter, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the District and Sessions Judge to conduct an inquiry. In his report, the District and Sessions Judge suggested that the matter be investigated by a Central agency. The High Court, taking cognisance of the recommendation and the serious nature of allegations, referred the matter to the CBI on September 24 and directed it to submit a report within six months.
The CBI is bound to take a close look at the statements given to the police by the two men who were caught and handed over to the police by the public for allegedly shooting Chatrapati. During questioning they reportedly said that they were Dera followers from Punjab and had been sent by Kishan Lal, a senior functionary of the Dera, to silence Chatrapati. Kishan Lal was also taken into custody.
Chatrapati battled for his life for 28 days, first at the Rohtak Medical College and then at the Apollo Hospital. In fact, several local journalists had received threats, but no one took serious note of them. However, Chatrapati did write to the Sirsa Superintendent of Police asking for protection.
Meanwhile, on November 3, the former sarpanch of Khanpur Koliyan in Kurukshetra district told newspersons that his son had been murdered by followers of the Dera because of the anonymous letter. The murder took place on July 10, he said, and claimed that when the police failed to nab the killers, he wrote to the Haryana Chief Minister for a CBI inquiry and sent copies of the letter to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, and the State Home Secretary, among others. The CBI will investigate this case as well.
The motive for the boy's murder and other activities of the Dera are the topics of discussion in Sirsa and surrounding districts. Chatrapati, also being a poet imbued with a reformist zeal, perhaps wrote a bit more consistently than the rest of his fraternity. By targeting him and also by attacking the office of Lekha Jokha, an evening newspaper published from Fatehabad, the Dera seemed to be sending a message to the journalistic fraternity. A total of 11 journalists have been given police protection. Political parties and journalist unions of all hues have condemned the actions of the Dera.
The Dera Sacha Sauda was set up in 1948 by Shah Mastana from Baluchistan. Conceived as a centre of spiritual inquiry and learning, the Dera stood as a symbol of disagreement with all established religions and orthodoxies. Its beginnings were rooted in a liberal and progressive theology that accepted into its fold many people. This naturally attracted several people. His successor, Shah Satnam, continued the good work and a lot of branches came up in other States as well. But since 1992, when Gurmit Singh took over, the Dera began to acquire a lot of agricultural land, much of it allegedly by coercion. One of the philosophies of the Dera is that it neither receives nor gives donation.
Today the Dera owns some 700 acres, which extend to the outskirts of Sirsa town, and its spokespersons claim that the main source of revenue is agriculture. A guide points to the Dera set up by the founder, and the girls hostel, which was reportedly built in record time using free labour. What is not shown is the petrol pump, the sophisticated supermarket and a revolving restaurant, to name a few of the entrepreneurial activities of the Dera. It runs a biscuit factory and an ice factory. All this information was gleaned locally and not from the Dera.
The Dera spokesperson, Dr. Aditya Arora, an ophthalmologist, preferred to highlight its boys' school affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education, its degree college affiliated to Kurukshetra University and a 175-bed hospital in Rajasthan's Ganganagar district. Ganganagar is also the birthplace of Gurmit Singh.
The Dera has 36 branches in 11 States, including Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. According to R.K. Soni, a sevadaar or volunteer, there are 400 sadhus and 100 sadhvis living in the Dera. "They manage on their own," said a sevadaar, rebutting the allegations of sexual exploitation.
The main mass of the Dera followers comprises peasants who claim to toil on Dera land for 18 hours a day. Dera followers claimed that the liquor mafia as well as followers of organised religion were working against Maharaj. They regretted the murder of Chatrapati but claimed that he "wrote all kinds of things".
Arora claims that the Sessions Judge who conducted the inquiry did not meet any of the relevant persons in the Dera. Chatrapati had been writing unprovoked, false and baseless reports, he maintained. "There was a difference between a sex scandal and an anonymous letter. The media should have made the distinction clear as it involved the feelings of 1.25 crore people," he said. Deputy Commissioner D. Suresh was requested to restrain Chatrapati, but nothing happened, he said. Suresh told Frontline that Dera representatives had indeed made such a request and that he had cautioned them not to take the law into their own hands. He added that his office had received several complaints against the Dera, alleging land-grabbing, drugs-peddling and tax evasion.
The Dera had done good work but all that was glossed over by the media, lamented Arora. "We don't accept charity, we are totally anti-liquor and support de-addiction. We must have enraged the liquor lobby and organised religion," he said. Arora claimed that the Dera was the premier disaster relief organisation in the country, having supported drought relief in Gujarat, flood relief in Sirsa and even in Orissa. "Please do not defame the Master," requested the doctor, who had been trained at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
A popular movement against the Dera is taking shape, with all political parties demanding a thorough investigation into its activities. In a memorandum submitted to Haryana Governor Babu Parmanand, the Haryana Patrakar Sangh, the Haryana Union of Journalists, the Chandigarh Journalists Association, the Punjab Union of Journalists, the Himachal Pradesh Working Journalists Association and the Himachal Pradesh Union of Journalists demanded a CBI probe into the functioning of the Dera, including its sources of income and a review of the firearm licences issued to Dera inmates, and provision of security to the journalists who have received threats.
CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONSpecial Crime BranchChandigarh.
'REWARD OF RS. ONE LAKH '
On the order of the Hon'ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh relating to allegation of sexual exploitation of Sadhvis and others staying at Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa and murder of journalist Ram Chander Chatterpati as well as Shri Ranjit Singh, a disciple of the Dera, the investigation of these cases have been taken over by the CBI.
The CBI has declared a reward of Rs. One lakh to any person who give specific information or evidence relating to the said offences of sexual exploitation of Sadhvis in the Dera Sacha Sauda, murder of Shri Ram Chander Chatterpati and Shri Ranjit Singh. Persons having specific information or evidence relating to these cases may contact either Shri A K Hargava, SP/CBI or Dr.Aarmaan Deep Singh or Shri Satish Dagar, Dy.SsP/CBI, Sector-30-A,Chandigarh-160 030. Phone no.0172-2657102 Ext.203(Office), Phone/Fax-0172-2657285 (office).
Such persons who give specific information or evidence in respect of these cases resulting in proper and successful legal action against the persons involved in these cases will be paid a cash reward of Rs.one lakh. The name and identity of the informer will be kept secret, if so desired.
Murder case against Sirsa dera chief Cong influencing probe: victim's son
Son of Ram Chandra Chatrapati.Accusing the Congress high command of influencing the ongoing probe in the murder of Ram Chander Chhatrapati, a Sirsa-based journalist, to shield the Dera Sacha Sauda chief and others involved in the case, the victim's son today alleged that the move is part of a larger conspiracy.
Addressing mediapersons today, Anshul Chhatrapati, the victim's son, alleged that the transfer of case from investigating officer, DSP Dr Armandeep Singh, to another CBI officer, DSP Satish Dagger, was an indication of tampering with the ongoing probe.
He added that the investigation into the case was about to complete at this juncture.
The CBI has been probing two cases of murder - one of Ram Chander Chhatrapati, editor of Poora Sach, and the other of Ranjit Singh, a member of the dera - and a case of sexual abuse against dera chief Gurmeet Singh on an anonymous complaint filed by a dera woman worker.
Anshul, who is now the editor of Poora Sach, alleged that members of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) had urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi to influence the CBI probe in favour of dera chief, as he had supported the Congress in the recent elections.
He alleged that the PPCC had entered into a deal with the dera chief before elections, wherein dera chief's support would have earned him help from the party in cases of murder and sexual abuse filed against him.
Anshul flanked by Thakur Shiv Ram Singh, sarpanch of Bajekan village in Sirsa, and advocate Lekh Raj said: "Due to the interference of the PPCC, the probe, which was nearing completion, is now going at snail's pace. As Dr Armandeep was handling the case, the transfer of the case to another official will only affect the probe adversely. I demand that all three cases be handled by Dr Armandeep."
He asserted that as the case was being influenced by politicians, he would approach general secretaries of both the CPI and the CPM, besides meeting Sonia Gandhi and other high-ups, to get justice.
Earlier in the day, confusion prevailed among mediapersons when Anshul and his associates went to the CBI office in Sector 30 and did not respond to calls made by them.
He showed up after much delay and cleared the doubts of mediapersons.
He said he had gone to discuss the case with CBI SP
Son to move HC against transfer of caseIn journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati's murder case, his son Anshul Chhatrapati will approach the high court against the transfer of the case from CBI official, Dr Armandeep Singh, DSP, to another official when the inquiry about to complete.
Anshul Chhatrapati said Dr Armandeep Singh had been investigating the murder charges levelled against the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda.
Before the official was able to submit his findings to the court, the case was handed over to another official allegedly following pressure by the Congress-led UPA government.
"I will move a plea in the court to direct the CBI functionary to explain under what circumstances the case was transferred when the inquiry was about to complete" he said.
Anshul Chhatrapati, also editor of evening newspaper Poora Sach, said, "The case is under the jurisdiction of the court. But the CBI senior functionary transferred the case to DSP Satish Daggar at this critical stage without informing the court. Dr Armandeep Singh had investigated the matter in detail and was to submit a complete report on April 16.
But before he could reveal truth, he was moved out", added Anshul.
It is learnt that Punjab Congress MLAs had requested Sonia Gandhi to favour the head of Dera Sacha Sauda in the CBI inquiry pending against him.
The MLAs highlighted the influence of the dera in the Punjab Assembly elections.
Ram Chander Chaterpatti, Poora SachNovember 21, 2002, Sirsa
Chaterpatti, editor of the Hindi-language newspaper Poora Sach, died in a New Delhi hospital of injuries sustained in an assassination attempt made a month earlier.
On October 24, a gunman fired several shots at Chaterpatti, a journalist based in Sirsa, a town in the northern state of Haryana. Chaterpatti was taken to an area hospital but was later transferred to the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi.
Police arrested three suspects, including the alleged gunman and a leader of the Sirsa-based religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. Officials said that Dera Sacha Sauda members are believed to have ordered Chaterpatti's murder in reprisal for the journalist's reporting on sexual abuse and other crimes allegedly committed at the group's compound in Sirsa.
A delegation of journalists, including the president of the regional journalists' group Haryana Patrakar Sangh and representatives of India's National Union of Journalists, met with the director general of police in Haryana on the day of Chatterpatti's death, November 21, to press authorities to bring the journalist's killers to justice. The delegation also complained that several journalists in the area have received death threats for reporting on the activities of Dera Sacha Sauda.