Armed guards at deras in the region are not a new phenomenon. A report in 2002, by the then Sirsa district and sessions judge, produced before the Punjab and Haryana high court by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) reveals that armed guards were roaming at the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda in that year.
The judge had filed the report on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court on allegations of rape against the dera head, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Following the report, the case was handed over to CBI for investigation.
In the report, the judge says “I visited the Dera Sacha Sauda and observed that it was less a religious dera than a business centre. The dera comprised many huge buildings, kothis and flats, colleges, schools, hostels and factories. ...It was observed that armed persons were freely roaming around in the dera,” the report says, adding that nobody was allowed to meet dera head without the permission of his
The report also points towards the political clout the dera head enjoyed and says that the judge got information that a large number of people including chief ministers, ministers and bureaucrats visited the dera.
The report was produced by the CBI counsel on Wednesday in the court to counter the claims of the dera counsel that everybody lived there without any fear. The report says that nobody was ready to disclose anything about rape allegations and there was no access to hostels, where the sadhvi girls resided.
The report notes that there were more than 100 sadhvis residing in the hostels at that point of time. The report has come to light days after high court directed Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to provide details on the deras and ashrams in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
The court took suo motu action on hearing in Rampal’s case in which a letter came to light in which in 2011, an army intelligence report had passed on information to its sister units that ex-servicemen were engaged in providing arms training to private army of the dera head.
Following the expose, HC had advocated for periodical monitoring of activities of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda by the top brass of the police in the state and conduct a search operation to unearth illegal arms and ammunitions, if any, to avoid future bloody confrontation.
It had also opined that training of private commandos and arming them with illegal weapons to protect some individuals would ‘definitely’ pose a challenge not only to the judiciary, but also to the country.
The court orders and observations came taking into account the opposition the government faced at the hands of dera followers of Rampal in Barwala, where property worth crores were damaged and six lost lives.