The private armies of the godmen: Ram Rahim’s Dera under scanner after reports of ex-army mercenaries training militias for gurus

Babus cannot live without muscle and guns. The godmen in India may thrive on blind faith but they themselves put faith in private militias.

Not just ‘godman’ Rampal — whose private army fought a pitched battle as he waged a war against the state, it has now come to light that even Gurmeet Ram Rahim, the Dera Sacha Sauda supremo, too has a private army to protect him.

The militia includes both serving and retired Army personnel who train youngsters in military tactics.

In a statement to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, senior advocate Anupam Gupta—who has been appointed as the amicus curiae in Rampal’s case—has stated that Dera followers are being trained by these personnel.

After Rampal’s arrest on November 19, the court had sought details of the activities in Ram Rahim’s deras.

When Mail Today contacted the Dera Sacha Sauda, its spokesperson Pawan Insan did not respond to repeated calls and text messages.

“There are reports that the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda are getting arms training from former Indian Army personnel.

“Some serving Army personnel also impart training and take part in Dera activities, like blood donation camps,” Gupta told Mail Today.

Gupta on Friday had told the High Court that the presence of Indian Army personnel in the Dera and their activities may pose a danger to the security of the nation.

Expressing displeasure, the court asked Gupta about who runs the Dera Sacha Sauda.

It was then that Gupta informed the High Court that the organisation is run by Gurmeet Ram Rahim.

Gupta further informed the court that the Dera chief is facing trials in cases of “murder, rape and castration of followers”.

Internal order

The Army is aware of the threat from the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS).

In an internal letter of the Indian Army, a copy of which is with Mail Today, personnel have been asked to “abstain from getting directly or indirectly involved with the organisation (Dera Sacha Sauda) in any manner”.

The December 13, 2010, letter— signed by Lt Col N.S. Bhatti— states that “some ex-servicemen are engaging themselves in imparting weapons training to activists of Dera Sacha Sauda at their HQ located at Sirsa”.

The letter also states that “reportedly some serving personnel have been participating in activities of Dera Sacha Sauda… like blood donation camps”.

The letter further states, the instruction of staying away from the Dera Sacha Sauda should be intimated to everyone in unit and sub-unit levels for “strict compliance”.

Dera Sacha Sauda’s private army mirrors the private army of ‘godman’ Rampal who was arrested on November 19 from his Satlok Ashram.

After a two-week stand-off, the security forces managed to clear the Satlok Ashram and arrest the godman, despite stiff opposition from his private army.

As Mail Today had reported, Rampal was protected by his 8,000-strong private militia that went by the name of Rastriya Samaj Sewa Samiti (RSSS).

The private army included ex-Army personnel and former Haryana police officers who guarded Rampal’s 12-acre ashram in Barwala round the clock.

The ex-soldiers also trained youths in military tactics.

Armed with sophisticated weapons, acid tankers, crude bombs and petrol bombs, they formed the Quick Reaction Teams tasked to ensure Rampal’s safety, besides securing the ashram precinct.

They communicated through walkie-talkies and were controlled from a ‘war room’ within the ashram.

According to sources, the RSSS operated like an Army battalion, divided into companies and platoons, each headed by a commander.

The militia included individuals who hailed from Haryana, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

Rampal paid Rs 40,000 per month to each ex-Army personnel who worked as a commander.

Sources said Rs 25,000 was paid to sub-commanders and Rs 15,000 to commandos.

Under scanner

With the Rampal episode fresh in mind, observers say, the Dera Sacha Sauda will continue to be under the scanner.

There have been past instances when DSS followers were booked by the police for violence.

This month itself, Dera followers and members of Sikh organisations opposed to DSS had clashed at Jogewala village in Punjab’s Ferozepur in which an infant was killed and about 12 people injured.

Meanwhile, sources told Mail Today that the organisation is now trying to consolidate its base in Punjab.

‘Rampal wanted his men killed in action’

By Manjeet Sehgal

Police investigations and cross-examination of self-styled godman Rampal’s associates have revealed that the baba was in favour of violence, so that the police would get scared and not dare to arrest him.

This revelation is in contrast to Rampal’s claims that his supporters had captured him while the stand-off took place outside the Satlok Ashram in Barwala before he was finally captured by security agencies on November 19.

Investigations have revealed that Rampal’s associates were hatching conspiracies inside the ashram while the administration was trying to complete the operation peacefully.

“Those who were holding the baba’s followers hostage wanted to incite the police and indulge in firing.

“Rampal also wanted to destroy the image of the police to mount pressure on the administration.

“The police, however, was not in favour of firing,” Hisar Police Superintendent Satyendra Gupta told Mail Today.

He added that Rampal wanted his followers to be killed in action to “send a message among the masses that the police attacked innocent followers”.

Investigations have also revealed that Rampal had permitted the entry of four female followers in his residence without any check.

While the police have already arrested head ‘sevika’ Batiba from the ashram, efforts were being made to arrest the remaining three.

Meanwhile, the police said it will take three to four more days to complete the search operation at Satlok Ashram.

“The ashram is spread over an area of 12 acres. We have yet to search around 30 per cent area of the ashram. It will take three to four days to complete the search operation,” Satyendra Gupta said.

During the previous searches, a special investigating team of the Haryana Police had found arms, bullet-proof jackets, ammunition and even a pregnancy test kit from the ashram.

And so far, a total of 900 followers of the controversial godman have been arrested on various charges. 

Associated Newspapers

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