A year after it registered a case against him, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is set to question Gurmeet Ram Rahim, head of Sirsa-based religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda, within a fortnight on allegations that 400 of his followers were castrated at its main centre in 2000.
According to a CBI source, the agency has been trying to track down as many followers as it could, and has acquired a list of 166 such persons.
In December 2014, a single judge bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court had ordered the CBI to register an FIR against the sect chief after Fatehabad resident Hansraj Chauhan approached it, alleging that 400 followers, including him, had been castrated. Chauhan alleged the castrations happened after the “victims” were persuaded that the act will ensure spiritual union with God.
Though the CBI registered the case in January 2015, it has been unable to question the Dera chief so far. The sect has rejected all allegations as false.
Denying any delay in questioning him, a CBI source said, “The investigating team has been busy gathering and verifying complaints and witness testimonies, which is a pre-requisite before such an examination in the case.”
On a political level, the issue of questioning the chief could be “sensitive” in view of the forthcoming assembly elections in Punjab next year. The sect is believed to exercise influence in a majority of the 65 assembly constituencies of the Malwa region — there are 117 assembly seats in Punjab — and its tilt towards candidates had played a decisive role in the 2007 assembly elections.
The CBI source, however, said, “There is no political or any other pressure on our probe.” The sect has an estimated 50 lakh followers in Punjab and Haryana and the CBI has faced massive protests when seeking to question its chief. “In a separate case probed by us a few years ago, his followers had staged protests on streets in Punjab and Haryana but a team did examine him,” said another CBI source.