Convicted Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh — out on a 40-day-parole, the fourth time in the past 14 months — addressed a religious congregation in Punjab’s Salabatpura virtually on Sunday, even as questions are being raised over the grant of frequent paroles to the controversial sect head.
The dera’s Punjab headquarter is at Salabatpur and is the second largest dera after Sirsa in Haryana. Singh addressed his followers virtually from the dera’s ashram at Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh.
Dera officials claimed that Ram Rahim had decided to hold an online satsang, as his followers had complained that they had been stopped from attending a similar function in Sirsa on January 25.
The Sirsa administration had claimed that some supporters weren’t allowed owing to the lack of space at the venue. However, on Sunday Singh addressed his followers virtually, amid tight security at the Salabatpura dera. The security deployment was led by Bathinda SSP J Elanchezhian. The dera committee members said the virtual conference was held to celebrate their second chief Shah Satnam Singh’s birth anniversary month.
The dera chief has come under the scanner from various religious and political organisations over the frequent paroles being granted. In Punjab, political parties and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) have opposed grant of repeated parole to Singh and demanded the release of Sikh prisoners.
“If Singh could get parole, then why are Sikh prisoners not being given similar relief even after completion of their sentences?” SGPC officials said.
Watch the Youtube live of Revered Saint Dr. @Gurmeetramrahim Singh Ji Insan from Barnawa, UP now!#incarnationmonth #SaintDrMSG #DeraSachaSauda https://t.co/PVDBjVb0KC— Dera Sacha Sauda (@DSSNewsUpdates) January 29, 2023
Adding to the din is the presence of some political personalities at the “satsangs”.
On Monday, two days after he was granted parole, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajya Sabha MP from Haryana Krishan Lal Panwar and the state’s political secretary to chief minister Krishan Bedi attended one of his online satsangs.
Besides being convicted in criminal cases in Haryana in 2017, 2019 and 2021, Singh has been embroiled in constant controversies in Punjab as well. In 2020, the Punjab police named him as an accused in sacrilege cases. He is currently serving a 20-year sentence in Rohtak’s Sunaria jail since his first conviction in a rape case in 2017.
Watch the Youtube live of Revered Saint Dr. @Gurmeetramrahim Singh Ji Insan from Barnawa, UP now!#incarnationmonth #SaintDrMSG #DeraSachaSauda https://t.co/SHbyJqdqcG— Dera Sacha Sauda (@DSSNewsUpdates) January 24, 2023
In all, the dera has around 84 branches in Punjab, with the largest of them being at Salabatpura, Bathinda.
The dera has more than 35 lakh followers in Punjab alone. Most followers come from socially and economically marginalised backgrounds.
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