Gurmeet Singh, the 50-year-old self-styled godman who is the chief of religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda, is reportedly being given preferential treatment by the state police and administration after he was convicted of rape and criminal intimidation on Friday.
According to reports, Singh's jail is an air-conditioned room with access to bottled mineral water, and he has been allowed an assistant to help him in prison. Shortly after Singh was pronounced guilty by a special CBI court in a 15-year-old rape case, the 50-year-old was flown in a helicopter to his prison--a special make-shift jail inside a police training centre in Rohtak, around 70 kilometres from Delhi.
"From arranging a special helicopter to providing an air-conditioned room and helping in using facilities meant for police officers, the Khattar government is extending all help to the lawfully disgraced Dera chief even after his conviction in such a serious crime as rape," a police source, who saw some of these things happen on Friday and Saturday, told IANS. "This is appalling."
"Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been put in (special jail at) PTC Sunaria," Rohtak Deputy Commissioner Atul Kumar told PTI, adding that tight security arrangements have been made.
A woman named Honeypreet, who is reported to be Singh's adopted daughter, accompanied the convicted Dera chief to prison, taking along bags and suitcases in the special helicopter used to fly him from the court to the jail. The helicopter was sent from the police lines complex in Panchkula.
Reports suggested that the Dera chief's security attacked police officers when they tried to treat him like a regular criminal.
"A couple of senior officers, who tried to take the Dera chief to task and treat him like any other criminal after his conviction were physically assaulted by his (sect chief's) security," an unnamed police source told IANS.
"One senior officer was slapped and other one was pushed in the presence of other top officers. The Haryana Police had to detain his security for some time to take him into its custody following the conviction," the police officer said.
He was reported to have been first taken to a police guesthouse, and shifted to his "jail room" later in the evening on Friday.
"The guest house which is situated in the (Sunaria) jail complex has been declared a jail till further orders," Haryana Jail Minister Krishan Lal Panwar told The Indian Express. He claimed this was because of "space constraints".
A senior Haryana police officer denied reports of preferential treatment. "Some channels and papers are reporting on special treatment to Ram Rahim. I clarify he is in Sunaria Jail, not in a guesthouse," the officer told ANI, referring to the police training centre in Sunaria.
The sect leader has enjoyed several benefits under the Haryana government. Singh had openly announced support for the BJP in the 2014 elections, and urged millions of his followers in the region to vote for the saffron party. The BJP, for the first time, came to power in Haryana on its own in the October 2014 assembly elections.
Since then, Singh received several favours from the Manohar Lal Khattar government. Three months ago, at an event in Karnal, CM Khattar had announced tax exemption for six months on the film 'Jattu Engineer', which stars Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
PTI reported that the state's Health and Sports minister Anil Vij had donated ₹50 lakh from his discretionary fund to the sect for promoting rural games. None of these games are played at the national or international level.
Another Haryana Minister Manish Grover too had announced ₹11 lakh to the Dera sports village.
The Dera chief, enjoyed 'Z' category security, and on the day of his conviction, he travelled in a convoy that included several SUVs. The self-styled godman, who is used to a life of ultra luxury and ostentatious public appearances, was accompanied by a number of his own security guards in the cavalcade.
Since the violence following Singh's conviction, Haryana CM Khattar has admitted that there were lapses but asserted appropriate action was being taken.
"This should not have happened," he said.
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