Journo who ‘exposed rapes in Dera’ was killed: Case at final stage in same court
As a CBI court on Friday convicted Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the controversial head of the religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda, of raping two women at the cult’s headquarters in Haryana’s Sirsa town, a bereaved son too awaits justice for the murder of his father, journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati, who had exposed the alleged rape of ‘sadhvis’ (female followers) at the Dera 15 years ago.
Chhatrapati was shot from point-blank range at his residence on October 24, 2002, months after the paper published an anonymous letter narrating how women finding solace in the Dera as sadhvis were sexually harassed and raped by the Dera chief. His son Anshul has been fighting the legal battle that has now reached final arguments in the same CBI court at Panchkula that found the dera chief guilty on August 25.
“I was 21 then, and did not know where to go for justice after the police did not include the name of the Dera chief in the FIR,” said Anshul, who finally petitioned the Punjab and Haryana high court for a CBI inquiry in January 2003.
For him, threats and pressures loomed large amid his struggle to carry on his slain father’s local Hindi newspaper, ‘Poora Sacch’ (Whole Truth), for 12 years after the tragedy. “My father fought for life in the hospital for 28 days after they pumped bullets into his body, and he had named the Dera chief as the accused in his statement to the local police. But the cops did not include the Dera chief’s name in the FIR, and the legal battle began from there,” he detailed.
Another murder case against the Dera chief in the same court is for the killing of Ranjit Singh, a former Dera member, in July 2002 as he had highlighted alleged wrongdoings inside the Dera headquarters at Sirsa, including sexual exploitation of female devotees by some people in the sect’s management.
The Chhatrapati case so far
• Oct 2002: Ram Chander Chhatrapati shot dead allegedly by Dera men
• Jan 2003: Key witness Anshul, his son, petitions HC for CBI probe
• Nov 2003: HC orders CBI probe
• July 2007: CBI files chargesheet against the Dera chief
• November 2014: Conclusion of evidence presentation