Months on after being declared dead, even though his followers claim he is in ‘samadhi’ (deep meditation), Ashutosh Maharaj, controversial leader of Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS) religious dera here, remains under Z-category (almost maximum) security of the Punjab government.
More than 162 days (3,888 hours) since the night of January 28 when doctors of the dera and Satguru Partap Singh Apollo Hospital, Ludhiana, confirmed that he had passed away, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Punjab Police continue to guard his body outside the place where his followers wait for him to “come back”.
Of Ashutosh’s 13 personal guards from the CRPF and 12 from the state police, two Punjab cops, who are also his followers, were his most trusted gunmen in his living days as a spiritual guru. The media now are barred from the dera, surveillance cameras fixed on its four doors, but the HT team sneaked in posing as disciples.
Only a few members of the dera management are allowed into the section where the body is kept under “controlled temperature”. Secret security tracks the movements of every other visitor, ensuring that no one ever pulls out a camera phone.
A CRPF personnel at one of the gates said his role was reduced to guarding the entrance. “Earlier, when Ashutosh travelled for religious discourses, we could go out too, but since January 28, we are confined to the dera,” said the jawan.
His colleague remembers Ashutosh’s going out for morning walk in the dera fields, unprotected. Except the two “trusted gunmen”, the rest of the Punjab Police guard is replaced regularly and not let near the room where the dera officials say Ashutosh rests in a “Himalayas-like environment, conducive for samadhi”.
“Pata ni kadon khatam honi e samdhi, sadde achhe din pata ni kadon aune (Don’t know when this samadhi will end and our good days will begin),” cribbed a guard, who is on duty at the permanent police post on the dera campus since the deep-meditation controversy started.
Assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Darshan Lal leads the Punjab Police security team, while Jasbir Singh is in charge of the CRPF ring. Earlier, because Ashutosh had confrontation with the Sikh community, he enjoyed Z-plus (maximum) security of 32 CRPF commandos till 2008, when the cover was reduced to “Z”.
Inspector general of police (Jalandhar Zone) Nirmal Singh Dhillon declined to make a comment, saying the level of security is decided at the police headquarters, based on intelligence input about threat perception.
Additional director general of police (security) Dinkar Gupta was also unavailable for comments, on the pretext of being busy in meetings all day.