In the wake of reports that rape convict Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had been extended VIP treatment, the Haryana government on Saturday denied any such favours to the disgraced self-styled godman.
Convicted for rape and criminal intimidation, the Dera chief, according to police sources, was provided an air-conditioned room in the Rohtak District Jail, around 70 km from the national capital.
“From arranging a special helicopter to providing an air-conditioned room and helping in using facilities meant for police officers, the (Manohar Lal) Khattar government is extending all help to the Dera chief even after his conviction in such a serious crime as rape. This is appalling,” a police source, who saw some of these things happen on Friday and Saturday, told IANS.
The self-styled godman has been used to a life of ultra luxury and ostentatious public appearances.
A woman, Honeypreet, whom the Dera website describes as his daughter (not real daughter), was allowed to accompany him along with bags and suitcases when Ram Rahim, after being taken into custody was flown in a specially arranged helicopter from the police lines complex in Panchkula.
But Haryana Director General of Police (Prisons) K.P. Singh refuted media reports regarding special facilities being provided to the sect chief in prison.
“The Dera chief is being treated as an ordinary inmate. He has been kept with other prisoners and no separate arrangements have been made for him. He has been allowed to take only clothes as per the jail rules,” the DGP told the media in Panchkula.
The DGP added that the sect chief had not been allowed any helpers.
The disgraced self-styled godman has been assigned “Qaidi No. 1997” (prisoner number 1997) tag in the prison.
State’s Chief Secretary D.S. Dhesi defended the state government’s decision to fly the sect chief to Rohtak on Friday.
“He was transported to District Jail in Rohtak by helicopter due to security concerns. He is being provided same food and facilities and has not been provided an air-conditioned cell. His Z-plus security was withdrawn automatically,” Dhesi added.
Even after being taken into custody, the Dera chief was shown full respect by a section of officers instead of being treated like a convicted 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 personnel.
“One senior officer was slapped and another was pushed in the presence of other top officers. The Haryana Police had to detain his security personnel for some time to take him into its custody following the conviction,” the police officer said.
However, DGP B.S. Sandhu denied that any incident like slapping a senior officer took place.
The favours by the Khattar government in Haryana are being linked to the open support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by the sect chief in the 2014 elections.
Lakhs of his followers are believed to have voted for the BJP. He even went to cast his own vote. The BJP, for the first time, came to power in Haryana on its own in the October 2014 assembly elections.
Panchkula town, adjoining here, where the CBI court announced the sect chief guilty, bore the brunt of the violence on Friday and resembled a war zone with scores of burnt vehicles and properties damaged or torched.
CBI Special Judge Jagdeep Singh held the Dera chief, who has lakhs of followers mainly in Punjab and Haryana, guilty of raping and sexually exploiting two female disciples in 2002.