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For the two rape victims, vindication after 15 years of ordeal - Deccan Herald
For the two rape victims, vindication after 15 years of ordeal
Gautam Dheer,
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Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. PTI File Photo
For 15 years, two women have lived, and were known, only as "Prosecution Witness No 5” and "Prosecution Witness No 10”. And it took all their resolve in the face of adversity to bring the chief of Dera Sacha Sauda, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, to justice. Today, they might just be heaving a sigh of relief as the 'godman’ who raped them is behind bars, sentenced for 20 years.

Their struggle was long and perilous. Their lives changed completely as they learned to live in utter fear, under constant threat and intimidation. The man they had stood up against was powerful - he was a 'spiritual guru’ in a land of blind belief and adoration, and he had at his command the lethal mix of money, muscle power and political patronage that such men enjoy. Eventually, though, the two women - and truth -- triumphed. Ram Rahim Singh is now Qaidi No 8647 at Rohtak jail in Haryana.

In prosecuting the case against the Dera chief, the CBI relied heavily on the statements of the two women. For a long while, the two had remained silent, fearing the wrath that Ram Rahim could unleash on them if they spoke out. But in 2002, the brother of one of the victims, who fought for his sister’s honour, was murdered. That was the last straw. The victim, who had been a sadhvi of the Dera cult, vowed to fight back.

Her brother had married her off after he came to know that she had been sexually exploited by the Dera head. He himself had been an ardent Dera follower, until he came to know of Ram Rahim’s criminal acts. When he was killed, the woman had to convince her in-laws that she could stand up against the might of the Dera chief. That was only the first of many challenges that the young woman overcame in her long struggle for justice.

The other victim, who was a teacher in the Dera sect’s school, says her own in-laws were followers of Ram Rahim Singh and resisted her stand against him. It was her husband who stood by her. The couple even moved out of his "Dera-crazed” parents’ home to pursue the case against the "mighty man” all by themselves.

Fifteen years is not a short span of time, by any standard, for victims of rape to hold their ground against the wrongdoer, especially one so powerful. The pressure on them to give up was enormous and hope dwindled with each passing day. Legislators, ministers, chief ministers, why even a prime minister, would often queue up to meet the Dera chief. In many cases, that would have been enough to smash the resolve and confidence of his victims. But not these two women. They withstood allurements, job offers and threats to life and limb.

How Ram Rahim preyed on them

At the Dera Sacha Sauda campus, every night women disciples were put on guard duty outside the girls’ hostel, which was close to the 'gufa’, Ram Rahim’s ultra-luxurious lair. The sadhvi, whose brother was murdered, told the court that the Dera chief would call in the woman on guard duty into his 'gufa’ and rape her. She was probably one of the many he had preyed on.

On that fateful night, the Dera chief had called her in and asked her to confess to him any mistakes she had committed previously. The woman had told him she had been close to a boy in college and that now he was trying to defame her. In her statement to the court, she narrates that the Dera chief then said to her, "You are apavitr (impure), but you have become a sadhvi, therefore I have control over your mind and body. By this act, I will purify you,” and proceeded to rape her. The victim told the court that this form of Ram Rahim’s 'maafi’ (pardon) for previous 'sins’ was known to other sadhvis of the sect as well. She was warned of dire consequences if she revealed it to anyone.

The other sadhvi, who was a teacher in the Dera school, said in her statement that she was called into the Dera chief’s room one day. As soon as she stepped in, the doors closed behind her automatically, and she found Ram Rahim watching pornography on a big screen.

In 2002, the woman wrote an anonymous letter narrating her ordeal to the chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana, the Union home minister, the prime minister, the CBI, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The last took cognisance of her letter and asked for an investigation. It was thus that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was brought to justice.