Ram Rahim rape verdict: 5 things you need to know about Dera Sacha followers
Lakhs of Dera Sacha Sauda supporters converged in Panchkula ahead of the verdict in a rape trial against the sect’s chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on Friday forcing authorities to lock down parts of Haryana and Punjab.
The self-styled godman was accused of raping two sadhvis, or women followers, in cases that date back to 2002. A special court of CBI is likely to deliver its verdict on Friday.
Singh has appealed his supporters to maintain peace. The 50-year-old burly, bearded man, who has scripted and starred in his own films, commands a near-devotional following.
Here are five things to know about Dera followers:
1) The Dera Sacha Sauda claims to have 50 million followers and runs a spiritual empire. It’s not unusual for leaders of such quasi-religious sects to often have armed private militias protecting them.
2) The sect’s followers call themselves ‘Premis’ and have a history of fervent devotion.
On Wednesday, Singh’s followers used a hashtag to showcase the religious leader’s charity work. They also started a hashtag #iSupportMSG to rally support and heap praises on their spiritual guru.
At least three Premis committed suicide in protest through 2011, when the CBI court instructed the Dera Sacha Sauda chief to appear before it every day. In 2007, clashes between Dera followers and members of the Sikh faith left at least three people dead.
3) To organise its followers, the Dera has a 45-member committee for each state and units at the micro level as well. The sect’s political wing has in the past publicly announced support for parties during elections to allegedly garner votes.
4) Gratitude is the primary sentiment that makes the dera chief’s followers defend him tooth and nail. “The government should be ashamed of the way it has been harassing our Guruji, who works so hard for us,” said a follower Phool Chand.
“We were once paupers. But today, we have everything from jobs to money, vehicles, and farmland all because of him,” Chand added.
5) Most of the Dera followers are people from lower castes and the lower strata of society. The sect has found a lot of acceptability amongst women and families as it preaches against drugs and alcoholism.
No caste distinctions - it asks followers to use the surname ‘Insan’ or human in Hindi, subsidised facilities such as food and medicines, and inclusive management are the other reasons why the Dera has a huge following, The Tribune reported.