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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

After rape verdict, followers abandon Ram Rahim’s Ghaziabad ashram

As per an estimate, there were nearly 40,000 followers of Singh in Ghaziabad district till the afternoon of August 25, prior to the CBI court holding him guilty in the rape case.

noida Updated: Aug 29, 2017 10:14 IST
Peeyush Khandelwal
Peeyush Khandelwal
Hindustan Times, Ghaziabad
The ashram came up around two years ago on the banks of river Hindon. Ram Rahim had also held an event to promote his movie ‘Messenger of God’ at the Karhera ashram.
The ashram came up around two years ago on the banks of river Hindon. Ram Rahim had also held an event to promote his movie ‘Messenger of God’ at the Karhera ashram.(Sakib Ali/HT Photo)
         

Dera Sacha Sauda’s (DSS) Ghaziabad ashram in Karhera wore a deserted look as followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh stayed away from the facility following his conviction on Friday.

The ashram came up around two years ago on the banks of river Hindon. Ram Rahim had also held an event to promote his movie ‘Messenger of God’ at the Karhera ashram.

As per an estimate, there were nearly 40,000 followers of Singh in Ghaziabad district till the afternoon of August 25, prior to the CBI court holding him guilty in the rape case.

A Hindustan Times team visited the ashram on Monday afternoon when the CBI court sentenced Ram Rahim Singh to 20 years of imprisonment for raping two women 15 years ago. Besides the PCR vans, only a single caretaker was present at the ashram, which is spread over nearly five bighas. Apart from organising ‘satsangs,’ the caretakers also grow vegetables in the remaining area.

“None of the followers or the coordinators have come to the ashram since August 25. We generally hold ‘Ram Charcha’ (a form of satsang) here and hundreds of people attend but the last assembly took place on August 19 and I don’t know when it will be held again,” said Bhoora, the caretaker, who is from Aligarh and earns Rs6,000 as monthly salary.

The Karhera ashram is under the scanner since the court held the self-styled godman guilty and large-scale violence broke out in Haryana and parts of NCR. In Loni, a UP Roadways bus was torched by unidentified men and two DTC buses were also set afire.

“We found dozens of spades and grass cutters at the ashram. As a precautionary measure, the equipment was seized. Who knows if these could have been used as weapons,” a police personnel deployed at the facility said.

The ashram has come up on the floodplains but has temporary structures, apart from the small, permanent structures of toilets.

“During assemblies, DSS books and food items are sold to people. Followers who come to attend ‘satsang’ purchase these items, which are costlier than the items available in the market. But our followers like to purchase these items,” Bhoora said.

The ashram area was peaceful as police camped on the Karhera road and inside the facility since Monday morning. There has been a regular deployment of police since the violence on August 25. DSS’ coordinator for Ghaziabad, Jitendra Kasana, was not reachable as his mobile phone remained switched off.

“The situation on Monday remained peaceful but we are taking extra precautions for the night. It is because of vandals who could use items such as petrol bombs to flare up violence. Petrol pump owners have been strictly told not to sell petrol in bottles or cans. A majority of DSS members or followers have been put under surveillance and they have been strictly told to abstain from any act that could escalate law and order in the district,” said Akash Tomar, superintendent of police (city).

The Ghaziabad police have deployed all PCR vans for crucial night duty and have assigned areas to circle officers, who will be accompanied by provincial armed constabulary personnel.

First Published: Aug 28, 2017 22:06 IST