Frequent paroles for Ram Rahim raise questions on govt’s intent

Thousands of people in J&K who are in occupation of the government land are staring at an uncertain future after the government asked the outgoing leaseholders to evict properties or else face evictions under the new rules. A report by Riaz Wani

The grant of 40-day parole in January 2023 to the dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim has raised many eyebrows. His parole is in the limelight as it has come soon after his last parole in November, also of 40 days. Last year also, he was also granted a 21-day furlough and one-month regular parole also totalling as many as 91 days. This is the maximum number of parole and furlough granted to a prisoner in a year.

Out of the Sunaria jail in Rohtak, Dera Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim is currently staying in Barnawa ashram of the Dera Sacha Sauda in the Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh. According to the Circle officer of Baghpat, D K Sharma, people will not be allowed to crowd the Ashram in compliance with parole rules. Honeypreet and family members of Ram Rahim Singh accompanied the Baba.

In the joy of the 40-day parole of  Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan and the incarnation celebration of Shah Satnam ji Maharaj later, a state-wide cleanliness campaign was conducted in Haryana, in which hundreds of the Dera Sacha Sauda volunteers participated.

During his current parole, Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim was seen `celebrating’ his temporary release from jail by cutting a giant cake with a sword. This had gone viral on social media. In the video, the Dera Head was also heard saying, “Got a chance after five years to celebrate like this so I should cut at least five cakes. This is the first cake.”

Incidentally, any public display of weapons such as cutting a cake with a sword is prohibited under the Arms Act. However, talking to Tehelka, Dera Sacha Sauda spokesman Jitendra Khurana said it was not a sword but an artificial knife by which the Dera head cut the giant cake. He had cut the cake with this knife on earlier occasions also, said Khurana.

Incidentally, the Dera chief is undergoing a 20-years imprisonment for the rape of two of his women disciples and murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatarpati. This time, the dera head had applied for the grant of a 40-day parole to attend the birth anniversary of a former dera chief, Shah Satnam Singh ji, on January 25. The anniversary is celebrated every year with great fanfare by the followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda.

Now, earlier this month, the Dera Head was granted a 40-day parole which incidentally was less than two months after the completion of his last 40-day parole at the end of last year on October 14, 2022.

The opposition parties in Haryana had earlier criticised the BJP-led Haryana government for using the Dera Sacha Sauda head for influencing the voters in the previous panchayat and Zila Parishad polls as well as the Adampur by-election in favour of the party. There is no election in Haryana at present, but this time he has been granted leave to his plea for the celebration of the `incarnation’ occasion of Sant Satnam Ji, one of the founders of the Dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa, Haryana. 

Haryana  Chief Minister Manohar Lal had vehemently denied the allegation of any favour and said the government had no role in getting the parole and the furlough for the Dera Head. But the timing of the parole close to the elections in Haryana had left no one in doubt about the intentions of the government.

The Dera Sacha Sauda head had supported the BJP in the 2014 Vidhan Sabha elections to come to power on its own for the first time in Haryana. The BJP knows how crucial the support of Dera Sacha Sauda is at the time of any elections in Haryana. No wonder Haryana  Minister of Home and Health Anil Vij also frequently supports the Dera chief to come out on parole.

“Parole is granted under law of land. It is the right of every citizen. There is no rule under which parole must be denied to a person in jail,’’ according to Vij. Anil Vij said the decision on parole is taken under the rule of law and the elections in Haryana have nothing to do with it.

If the Dera Head had just rested in the ashram peacefully during his parole last year people may not have noticed his actions much. But he courted controversy by conducting several online satsangs from the Barnava ashram. The Baba also released a music video there. Some Haryana BJP leaders also attended these online satsangs and sought blessings of the Baba. 

The Shiromani Akali Dal and the SGPC have criticised the parole granted to the Dera Head. SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami alleged that while special kindness was being shown to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Sikh prisoners lodged in jails for about three decades now were not being released even after completing their sentences.

The frequent parole and furlough granted to the Dera head has drawn sharp criticism from Anshul Chatterpati, son of late journalist Ramchender Chhatarpati who fought cases for several years against the Dera Head.

According  to Anshul Chatterpati, the alleged soft corner of the Haryana government towards the Dera Head has been totally exposed. `The BJP is playing a vote bank politics. To please the Dera followers to vote in its favour, the Haryana government works behind door to get him frequent paroles and furloughs’’ he said. 

Calling Dera Head Gurmeet Ram Rahim, a hardcore criminal, Anshul said he is a rapist and a murderer. Such criminals are a threat to society. How can he be given such leave from the jail time and again?  Anshul charged that the legal loopholes are being taken full advantage of to grant Dera Head leave.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had said that using parole is the Dera Sacha Sauda chief’s right and he must have got it after following all the due procedures and he will not interfere in that.

Calling the Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal’s statement shameful that he was not aware of the Dera Baba’s release from Sunaria jail again on parole for 40 days, Anshul Chhatarpati said it was unbelievable that the CM was not aware of this fact and came to know about it from the media. 

Meanwhile, Haryana Jail Minister Ranjit Singh Chautala said, “Gurmeet Ram Rahim is like any other prisoner and he also has his fundamental rights. After 3-5 years, a prisoner can apply for parole and it is not in our hands, competent authority decides on the bail.”

Anshul Chhatrapati pointed out that Gurmeeet Ram Rahim has come out of jail for the fourth time in the last 12 months. Before October 2022, the Haryana government granted him parole for one month. He was also given a three-week furlough on February 7, 2022, two weeks before the Punjab assembly elections.

“Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim is  “misusing” his influence’’, charged Anshul. The Haryana government has bowed down to him, he alleged.

On the Dera issue former HPCC president Selja commented that the BJP leaders bowing down before Ram Rahim is not a new thing. This is not the first time the government has done this. You can imagine what is the attitude of the government towards it. It is a point to ponder whether the BJP wants to revere him or just use him.