Disillusioned, premis leave dera premises with tinge of pain, remorse
18 girls ‘adopted’ by dera chief as ‘royal daughters’ sent to child care centrepunjab Updated: Aug 30, 2017 09:53 IST
Balmat Singh (55) of Jind, who was among the Dera Sacha Sauda followers standing in the queue for frisking by police before their eviction from the sect headquarters on Tuesday, was in tears.
“I don’t think I will come here again,” said Balmat, who worked at the dera as a driver for 16 years.
The police asked the followers, also known as premis, to come forward one by one for frisking. Besides Balmat, some 500-odd dera workers were evicted from the dera premises and sent home in Haryana Roadways buses amid heavy security.
Most of the followers, who had been living at the dera for years and worked as masons or engine mechanics among others, hailed mainly from southern parts of Haryana and Punjab.
Army personnel have put up barricades around 500 metres away from the new complex of the dera and are urging followers who are still here to leave the premises. The old complex was built by the sect founder, Mastana Balochistani.
Sirsa deputy commissioner (DC) Prabhjot Singh told PTI that about 200 people, mostly dera employees, were still housed in the new headquarters here. Deputy director, information and public relations department, Haryana, Satish Kumar, said around 700 followers had left the headquarters since Tuesday morning.
Villagers in a state of shock
In the nearby Bajekan, Neja Khurd and Ali Mohammad villages, the dera followers’ families were in a state of shock. Many of them were not willing to talk about the conviction and sentencing of their godman.
A 70-year-old woman of Nejia Khurd village cried when HT correspondent talked to her. “He is our ‘rabb’ (God) and he will remain so. Those who ditched him and gave him pain will be punished,” she said.
Her 80-year-old husband Sulja Ram slightly differed from his ailing wife. “I was a regular visitor to the dera during the time of Shah Satnam. But then things changed gradually. You know what had been going on there,” he said, refusing to elaborate.
As men played cards, the elderly and the womenfolk from the dera-following families stayed home with many not having eaten anything since morning.
“Yes we used to go there,” quipped another woman at Ali Mohammad village, 8 km from the dera headquarters. She wondered what was now left over there. “Who will we listen to there now? No one can be like him,” she said.
Bajekan village has a statue of the Dalit icon Dr BR Ambedkar, in front of houses of Dalits who are also dera followers.
“Yes, more Dalits are more dera followers,” said Bagi Ram, a staunch dera follower from the Rajput community, at Ali Mohammad village. “The premis still believe in Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh as their God. No one can replace him,” said a woman accompanying him.
The MSG ‘kiryana’ store in the village has been closed since the dera chief was convicted on August 25.
Shops, along Begu Road near vicinity of the dera headquarters and owned by many dera followers, were also shut. (With agency inputs)
Girls were medically examined
As many as 18 minor girls, who were adopted by dera chief Rahim Singh as ‘shahi betian’ (royal daughters), were evacuated from the dera headquarters on Tuesday. They were taken to a hospital for medical examination and then sent to a child care centre in Rohtak. The girls, who were kept away from their families after their so-called adoption, were among 42 others, said Balmat Singh, the dera driver.
Dera daily not published for 3 days
Dera Sacha Sauda mouthpiece ‘Sach Kahun’ has not been published for the last three days. Dera followers at Ali Mohammad village were keenly waiting for the newspaper. “In all, 20 copies arrive here and are read by the entire village. The last copy arrived here on August 25, in which the dera chief had appealed his followers to maintain peace,” said a villager.
First Published: Aug 30, 2017 09:46 IST