Excerpt: Dera Sacha Sauda and Gurmeet Ram Rahim by Anurag Tripathi
Anurag Tripathi’s book on the Dera Sacha Sauda reveals stories of sexual exploitation, private militias, land grabbing and illegal trade in arms. This excerpt reveals the cult’s forced castration of minorsbooks Updated: Apr 20, 2018 19:14 IST
In October 2000, Hansraj was travelling with Gurmeet Ram Rahim to his hometown in Gurusar Modia in Rajasthan. ‘I was a bhajan singer, so Gurmeet used to take me along to his hometown every time he visited, to perform bhajans.’
On the way, Gurmeet told him, ‘Tum par rehmat hogayi hai’ (You have been blessed), and that soon, Hansraj would have a vision of God. ‘Little did I know that this trip would ruin my entire life.’ Hansraj was then seventeen years old, and completely unaware of the trap he was falling into.
Dera Sacha Sauda runs a hospital at Gurusar Modia, Gurmeet Singh’s village in Sri Ganganagar district. According to Hansraj, most of the initial castrations were done at this hospital. He said that the Dera chief asked him to go to the hospital and meet Dr Garg and Dr Singh, and say to them, ‘Mujh par rehmat ho gayi.’ (I have been blessed.)
When he went to the hospital that evening and told the doctors exactly what the Dera chief had asked him to, they smiled and offered him a cold drink. ‘Even before I could finish half the bottle, my head started spinning and I began to hallucinate. Soon, I fell unconscious, to wake up three days later.’
His ordeal had only just begun.
On regaining consciousness, he found his private parts bandaged. ‘I was in immense pain. I cried out and was given painkiller injections,’ he said, recalling the horror. In the evening, when the dressing was changed, he realized that his testicles had been removed. ‘Out of fear, dejection and pain, I urinated on the bed itself,’ he said, tears welling in his eyes while recounting that day. He wanted to die. His belief in the Dera and its chief was shattered. He felt betrayed.
‘Where to run away, whom to tell what has happened to me, how will I live the rest of my life—these were some of the questions running through my mind.’
He confronted the doctors who operated on him, only to be told that he was ‘chosen’—he had been specially ordained by ‘God’ Gurmeet himself, and should have no reason to complain, nor should he tell anyone at the Dera.
‘I refused to eat anything. I was just crying and thinking of my parents. After some time, I fell unconscious again.’
Even seventeen years after the surgery, Hansraj says that the pain refuses to go. ‘Sometimes it hurts so much, it feels as if hundreds of scorpions are biting me at the same time.’
Hansraj was discharged from the hospital the next day and sent to Sirsa. There, many sadhus his age asked him the reason for his despondency, but he kept it to himself. There were two reasons for that—he feared for his life, but perhaps the greater one was that he felt ashamed. Soon after he returned, another sadhu his age was summoned by the Dera chief. ‘Uspar bhee rehmat ho gayi.’ (He too was blessed.) That sadhu, also a minor, was sent to the same hospital in Gurusar Modia. ‘When he came back, he was seething with pain. His operation seemed to have gone wrong and there were blood stains on his pyjamas.’
This pattern of selecting young boys and sending them to be castrated continued for a long time. Hansraj said that from his group alone, more than twenty minors were sent for the surgery. With the number of castration cases increasing in number, keeping it secret became difficult. Soon, most of the sadhus at the Dera became aware of it. Some tried to flee to avoid it. Those who were caught trying to escape were beaten up and put in the torture room for days.
The doctors were called from the Dera hospital in Rajasthan and a makeshift operation theatre was created in Sirsa where the sadhus were forcibly castrated. ‘We used to hear screams emanating from the tent. Sadhus used to cry loudly and beg to be released. They would be sedated and operated upon. The castrated sadhus were kept in a state of trance throughout the day, either with opium or pills used for sedation.
‘Every morning before breakfast, we were handed round black tablets that we were told were meant to suppress sexual desire. The impact of the pill was so intense that our minds would become numb. We were incapable of thinking after taking the tablet. We were in a perpetual state of trance.’
As per Hansraj’s own estimate, more than two hundred sadhus had been castrated by the end of 2002. He mentioned two cases, one in which three brothers were castrated and another in which two brothers were castrated. ‘Imagine the plight of those parents, all three of whose sons were castrated,’ he said.
In 2002, a meeting of the castrated sadhus was convened by the Dera chief, in which he told them that for the outside world, they were ‘eunuchs’ now. They could neither marry nor procreate. They would soon start looking more like women than men, and if they left the Dera, society would not accept them. They should therefore pledge their complete allegiance to him, and give him complete control over their lives and deaths. Henceforth, they should do whatever assignment they were given without question, even if it involved dying or killing.
First Published: Apr 20, 2018 19:13 IST