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

A match in Sirsa

Seeing is believing, they say. As chaotic scenes unfolded in Haryana after the court pronounced its verdict in the Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh case , I was reminded of my time in Sirsa in February 2010. It was during the Vijay Hazare Trophy tournament that I had an opportunity to witness the spell cast by the self-styled god-man over his disciples, most of whom belong to the weaker sections.

Sirsa is like a kingdom where not only is Singh’s diktat the last word, but he is also revered as more than a mere mortal. “ Dhan dhan satguru tera hi aasra, ” was how his followers greeted us.

As touring journalists, like the participating teams, we had to depend on Dera Sacha Sauda for arranging accommodation and for covering matches. Acres and acres of land near Sirsa belong to the Dera, including agricultural land, educational institutions, market and housing complexes, medical facilities, sports arenas... you name it. Call this empire a sub-city, if you will, that caters to everyone’s needs.

 

The followers claimed that the structures, some of which had peculiar designs, had been conceptualised by Singh himself. They also claimed that the clay that had been used in the construction of those buildings would cause minimum damage during earthquakes.

At the marketplace, we noticed the overwhelming presence of one brand: Sach. In every institution, footage of Singh’s activities, including of him playing different sports and emerging invincible, played out on television. A head teacher of a school described how ‘Pitaji’ coached students to bring laurels for the State in sports. During cricket matches, Singh used to occupy a high seat in the pavilion that was packed with schoolchildren constantly shouting slogans during the entire duration of Singh’s presence. Every team and player, including the likes of Virat Kohli and Ashish Nehra, were obliged to meet Singh and get ‘tips’ about the game!

It seemed as though the Dera followers had one agenda: to bombard guests with tales of miracles by Singh and speak about his greatness.

The Sunday congregation was another experience altogether. In a dimly lit packed underground hall, Singh sped past in an open jeep along with his ‘Z’ security personnel. Perched on his elevated seat, he delivered his pravachan and guru mantra as his audience watched in awe. Everything he touched, from sweets to candies, became prasad for his followers.

It seemed as though everyone was under a spell in the surreal world of the Dera.


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Printable version | May 12, 2022 3:10:04 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/a-match-in-sirsa/article62040746.ece