Chandigarh: Coincidentally or deliberately, Dera Sacha Sauda’s controversial preacher Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, a convict in rape and murder cases, is being released by the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Haryana government most of the time on parole/furlough just before any important election in Haryana or adjoining states.
Gurmeet’s release on paroleon Tuesday is seen connected to upcoming assembly polls in Rajasthan, where the dera has been claiming significant clout of its chief.His followers even claim that he has influence in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which are also witnessing the assembly polls.
A native of Gurusar Modia village in Sri Ganganagar district of Rajasthan, the Sirsa dera chief has significant influence in some parts of the desert state, especially those sharing boundaries with Haryana’s Sirsa district.
Several top leaders of Rajasthan, including former CM Vasundhara Raje, were seen visiting the dera in the past (before his conviction) to seek the blessings of the sect chief.
Importantly, the dera has a political wing that decides and issues directions, regarding support to candidates, to its followers just before the polling day. Even before the 2014 assembly elections in Haryana, then BJP national president Amit Shah had visited the dera chief in Sirsa. Thereafter, the dera had openly announced support to the BJP, which later formed the government in Haryana with full majority for the first time.
On July 20 this year, Gurmeet was released before the panchayat polls in Haryana for 30 days, and on January 21, for 40 days. On October 15, 2022, he was released just before the panchayat elections and Adampur bypoll. On June 17, 2022, he was granted parole/furlough for around a month just before the state was to hold municipal body elections. On February 7, 2022, he was granted 21-day furlough just before the Punjab assembly elections.
His was granted first such relief on October 24, 2020, when he was temporarily released just before the crucial Baroda assembly bypoll in Haryana — from sunrise to sunset to meet his ailing mother at a Gurugram hospital.
The dera chief has been in Rohtak’s Sunaria jail since August 2017. On August 25, 2017, special CBI court Panchkula had convicted him for rape of sadhvis (female disciples) and sentenced him two terms of 20-year imprisonment. On January 17, 2019, the CBI court had sentenced him life imprisonment for the 2002 murder of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatarpati. In October 2021, the special CBI court awarded him life imprisonment in connection with former dera manager Ranjit Singh’s murder case.
Around 40 people had lost their lives in August 2017, after the violence in Panchkula and other parts of Haryana and Punjab following his conviction in rape cases.