Tunnel, cracker unit, AK-47 rifle cartridges: Search ops at Dera HQ end
The search operation began a few days after Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of raping two women and sentenced to 20 years in jail.india Updated: Sep 10, 2017 09:02 IST
A secret passage connecting the disgraced Dera Sacha Sauda chief’s home with a hostel for woman disciples, another tunnel lined with fibreglass, a cache of explosives and an illegal firecracker factory were found at the sect’s headquarters on Saturday.
An empty box of AK-47 rifle cartridges, 84 cartons of firecrackers and chemicals from the illegal factory, besides hundreds of pairs of shoes, designer clothing and caps, were also discovered.
The discoveries were made during a search in the 800-acre Dera hub after its 50-year-old chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was convicted of raping two sadhvis, or woman devotees, in cases that date back to 2002.
The flamboyant “godman”, who has scripted and starred in own films and commands a near-devotional following that runs into millions, was sentenced to 20 years in jail this August.
Police, paramilitary and civil administration officials were involved in the search that began on Friday on the direction of the Punjab and Haryana high court.
A window in his home — also known as gufa, or cave — led to the passage to the hostel, Haryana government spokesman Satish Mehra said.
According to former Dera followers, only his closest aides had access to the gufa, a pink mansion shaped like a half-doughnut and kitted out with modern luxuries.
The victims had alleged that the Dera chief sexually exploited woman devotees in this fortified house.
The second tunnel led to a mud path that looked like a secret escape route opening out about 5km away.
Sources said a geological team from IIT-Roorkee has reached Sirsa to look for anything hidden under Ram Rahim’s home and the sprawling complex that has a stadium, a hospital, schools and collges, bungalows, markets and an ostentatious “7-star MSG resort” with replicas of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Kremlin and Disney World.
Police have called divers to search the big ponds.
Hundreds of people and sect followers permanently live and work in the mini-township.
The sect chief lived in an area spread over 100 acres and it has bungalows of his family members, none of whom are there since August 25.
An unregistered luxury car and some banned money were seized on Friday. The search will continue on Sunday.
The process is being videographed and overseen by retired district and sessions judge, AKS Pawar.
A quick-reaction team, anti-sabotage squad, bomb-disposal and forensic experts, bulldozers, tractors, locksmiths, and dog squads were called in to assist the comprehensive search.
Curfew has been clamped in the area and internet services in Sirsa district were suspended till September 10.
The security measures were taken as Ram Rahim’s conviction in August led to large-scale violence in Panchkula and Sirsa, leaving 38 people dead and 264 wounded.
(with agency inputs)