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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, January 21, 2018


Death toll rises in Dera violence: India expresses outrage

Dera violence reached 32 on Saturday

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HARYANA, India - The death toll from the Dera violence reached 32 on Saturday as new progress was recorded in the investigation and the Punjab and Haryana High Court pulled up the Centre and State.

The court has said that because of the suspension of Panchkula DCP Ashok Kumar, a deeper probe would be required to ascertain who was behind the flip-flop over the orders to impose Section 144.

On Friday, hours before self-styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim set out for Panchkula court from his base in Sirsa, the Dera Sacha Sauda chief had put out a video message. 

In the video, it has been revealed that he was seen asking the tens of thousands of the Dera followers who had reached Panchkula to go back home.

However, it might not be the only message that went out of Dera Sauda Sacha.

On Saturday, an order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court - which is the court's third hearing in two days - suggested there may have been other secret dispatches from the Dera headquarters as well. 

According to reports, these secret dispatches were picked up by the police, that were eavesdropping into phone conversations of Dera leaders.

The high court then asked the police to produce details about these phone calls.

The order by the high court's three-judge bench led by Acting Chief Justice SS Saron said, "The reports of interception of the messages given by the Dera Sacha Sauda inciting violence shall be submitted in this court in a sealed cover.”

The high court expressed fury over the conduct of the followers who led riots after the court held Ram Rahim guilty of rape of two women, in addition to the state government that had let them gather in such large numbers - it asked the Haryana and Punjab governments to come up with plans and strategy to prevent such kind of incidents in the future.

The high court also noted details of a report in a local newspaper that accused five Dera functionaries including its spokesperson Aditya Insan of instigating and inciting violence. 

The judges, who spoke to the police, asked them to check with the reporter if he stood by his report.

The court said, "If he stands by the same, FIR (police complaint) be immediately registered against those persons.”

During the hearing, the high court also admonished the Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s government for letting the situation escalate and letting the city "burn for political motives.”

After the court announced the conviction, thousands of his supporters gathered near Panchkula's special court turned violent - burnt cars, damaged property and targeted residents. 

As the day progressed, the violence spread to other towns in Haryana, parts of Punjab and even the capital, New Delhi.

After they opened fire in Panchkula, the police was able to disperse the mob, seen as a peaceful second option to adjoining Chandigarh. 

By the end of the day, the violence had cost nearly two dozen lives and several people were hospitalized with injuries and died later.

The 50-year-old guru is also under investigation for the murder of a journalist who first brought the rape allegations against him to light.

He is also under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation over allegations of forcing several male followers to undergo castrations to bring them closer to God. 

He has denied the accusations.

Known as the “the guru of bling” for his flashy life and flamboyant dressing style, Singh is often seen driving an oversized motorcycle and has made several films and music albums.

He is known to be fond of red leather jackets, bejeweled hats, bicep-baring T-shirts and cinema.

Reports point out that he has started a film franchise in which he stars as the "Messenger of God," or MSG, with divine powers to save the world.

Last year, he released his most recent cinematic offering, "MSG — The Warrior Lion Heart," that saw the guru playing a secret agent armed with a twirled moustache and an assortment of swords to fight aliens and UFOs.

In that film he took credit in 30 categories, including dialogue writer, choreographer, props, stunts, film editor and makeup artist.

Describing himself as a “Spiritual Saint/Philanthropist/Versatile Singer/Allrounder/Sportsperson/Film Director/Actor/Art Director/Music Director/ Writer/Lyricist/Autobiographer/DOP,” the man broadcasts video, images and messages to his 3.75 million Twitter followers almost daily.

He leads the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, that controls a sprawling empire of 46 centers across the country and claims to have a worldwide following of 60 million people.

He extols meditation, urges followers not to consume alcohol and encourages vegetarianism.

Singh enjoys political patronage from several local politicians, including Khattar and other ministers of the Haryana state government.

Even the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has offered support for the guru.

In 2014, Modi applauded his group’s efforts to take part in a campaign by the government to clean up the streets on Twitter. 

Modi had even mentioned Dera Sacha Sauda and thanked the group for its contribution to the country in the recent election.

However, on Friday, he denounced the deadly violence in a series of tweets and appealed for peace.


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