Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh: From 'baba of the bling' to rape convict

‘Kill him, kill him,’ screamed ‘Premis’

Narrow escape:  Rakesh Kumar, right, and Shapinder Singh in  Sirsa on Saturday.

Narrow escape: Rakesh Kumar, right, and Shapinder Singh in Sirsa on Saturday.

On Friday afternoon, it was a near-death experience for two journalists from a private news channel.

Rakesh Kumar, 44, a principal correspondent with PTC News, and his cameraman, Shapinder Singh, 23, were surrounded by a mob of around 40 Dera followers armed with sticks, iron rods, and other sharp-edged weapons. While Mr. Kumar escaped with a fractured arm, Mr. Singh lost his camera. They consider themselves lucky to have survived to tell the tale.

It all happened around an hour after the CBI court in Panchkula delivered its verdict, holding Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of rape. Fearing a backlash, nearly all journalists, who had camped in the media wing of the Dera headquarters, sneaked away minutes before the judgement was announced.

 

For exclusive footage

Mr. Kumar and Mr. Singh, however, stayed behind in the hope of getting some exclusive footage. Little did they realise that the decision would nearly cost them their lives. When they finally started for the city around 4 p.m. (the Dera is around 14 km from Sirsa city), a mob surrounded their car outside ‘Purana Dera,’ the smaller and older Dera about 3 km from the main one. Some men in the mob wanted to search the car to establish their identity.

“Even before I could react, one of them yelled that he had seen me reporting from outside the Dera. Once they realised we were journalists, they began to attack us. They pulled me and my cameraman out of the car. They smashed the windows and the windscreen, badly damaged the vehicle, and set it on fire,” Mr. Kumar said.

The mob then turned on Mr. Kumar, blaming the media for the situation, and started raining blows on him. While some in the mob shouted, “Kill him, kill him,” an elderly man thrashed him with a lathi, fracturing his right arm. In the commotion, Mr. Kumar somehow managed to extricate himself and fled towards the houses in the nearby Shahpur Begu village.

 

People to the rescue

Helped by a kind-hearted man in the mob, the cameraman also managed to escape. “We both ran in different directions. A few villagers came to my rescue. One of them took me to a bus stand on his cycle, where I spotted a senior police officer. He then took me to a hospital,” Mr. Kumar said.

Mr. Singh, while seeking directions to the bus stand, ran into a proverbial Good Samaritan who offered him refuge in his house. “I tried to contact Rakesh after I recharged my phone but he was continuously out of reach.

It was only later that I realised that he had forgotten his phone in the car, and it was burnt, along with our clothes, cash, and the camera. Around midnight, I got a call from Rakesh, and we could finally reconnect,” Mr. Singh said. Despite the harrowing experience on his very first assignment, he was determined to pursue a career in journalism, he added.

A three-member team of another Hindi news channel was also stranded inside the Dera following the verdict and rescued on Saturday morning. The trio hid for several hours in a room at one of the hotels inside the Dera. They eventually managed to come out after establishing contact with the local administration.


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Printable version | May 18, 2022 5:55:59 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/kill-him-kill-him-screamed-premis/article62041486.ece