A special CBI Court will today pass the verdict in a 15-year-old rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Tens of thousands of his followers have camped in Panchkula near Chandigarh, triggering concerns of violence after the verdict. Army columns arrived in the city post-midnight, according to Press Trust of India and the police said the followers would be moved out of the city by security forces. Dera has a massive base of followers in both the states and most of them are Dalits. The Dera draws its support from Dalit Sikhs who feel discriminated against by upper-caste Sikhs. In a video message released on Thursday, Ram Rahim asked his followers to maintain peace and to return to their homes.
However, its business as usual in Salabatpura dera, the biggest estate of Dera Sacha Sauda in Punjab, spread over 150 acres. Surrounded by 13 gates, with 12 of them locked and one guarded by police. The Godman has not come to Punjab for last 10 years. In last few days, the number of devotees have visiting the Dera has come down as one of his followers puts it that most of them are in Sirsa or Panchkula.
Nearly 300 followers, mostly senior citizens, carry out various duties in the. Of them 200 are sevadars while rest of them are on Dera’s roll. The followers can be identified with a dera locket that they never forget to display.
kinnow, amla, seasonal vegetables, cotton, paddy and wheat are grown on Dera’s land. While the vegetables are sold at the dera canteen, rest of the produce is sold in mandis, said Gurdev Singh from Barnala’s Jangian village. The Dera also feeds over 100 cattle for dairy farming. clinic offers medicines at discounted rates and doctors, who are followers of dera, come for “free service”.
One of the special features of the Dera is a cave which is one of the 13 places of rest for the chief. However, since he has not come to Punjab for past 10 years, so this cave has not been used since long.
Sonu Kumar, a private teacher and Dera’s follower, said,” We come for weekly duties; stay here and after performing our duties in the given area — farming, dairy, security, canteen — we go back. Even tomorrow, duties will be performed in a similar manner irrespective of the verdict, he added.
On Wednesday, a total of 85 village panchayats of different parts of Punjab pledged their support to the Dera chief.
“With such a support, we are confident we will win and truth will prevail,” Sukhwinder Singh, son of Salabatpura dera administrator Zora Singh, said.
Sukhwinder Kaur, another follower of sect Guru from Barnala district, said: “We are peace loving. We will never indulge in violence, but will not keep quiet if someone tries to overpower us.”
Source: Indian Express
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