Gurmeet Ram Rahim: Why is he such a controversial figure?
Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has a massive following in Punjab and Haryana with some estimates saying that the Dera has close to 5 crore followers. Singh is a movie actor, a singer, a writer, director and a social reformer. To his followers, he is a spiritual leader and others just wonder why he is so popular. The Indian Express had placed Singh 96th in their list of the 100 most powerful Indians of 2015.
He has made movies in which he can be seen wearing fancy colourful clothes, riding a motorcycle, performing heroic feats and thrashing bad folks.
Singh also has been alleged of molesting a female follower of the Dera. The verdict, in this case, is set to be delivered on August 25.
His socio-spiritual organization Dera Sacha Sauda has been involved in several social programmes, such as cleanliness campaigns, blood donation drives, tree planting, disaster relief, and support for transgender people, tribal communities, orphans, and rehabilitation of sex workers.
Here are some of the controversies involving Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh:
Conflict with Sikh groups:
An advertisement in which Gurmeet Ram Rahim is shown wearing an attire resembling the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh left the community fuming. Following this, Ram Rahim tendered an apology to highest Sikh body Akal Takht. A case was also filed in the Sirsa court in 2009 and Bathinda court in 2014, but both were later dismissed.
The alleged rape case against set to be decided this week was filed in 2002 and accuses him of sexually exploiting two women at Dera office in Sirsa. The incident dates back to 1999 when Ram Rahim had allegedly molested a female follower of the Dera.
Singh was in 2002 accused of having played a role in the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chatrapati, who was writing articles about the Dera.
The arrest of a comedian for mocking Dera chief:
In 2016, comedian Kiku Sharda was arrested in Mumbai by the Haryana Police for mimicking Singh on a show. Sharda spent 14 days in judicial custody in Kaithal, Haryana, even as he maintained that he was merely following the script. The case was filed by a Dera follower.
In 2014, Singh was accused of forcing castration of around 400 followers. The castration was being carried out on pretext of attainment of union with God. The Dera chief denied the allegations, but the CBI had filed a case.
Censor board member resignation:
Former chairperson of Censor Board Leela Samson had resigned after Gurmeet Ram Rahim's movie MSG: Messenger of God was given clearance. Following Samson's resignation, another board member Ira Bhaskar also resigned from the board.