Call him Baba Ram Rahim, Dr Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh or sant Ram Rahim. For the people of Punjab and Haryana, his name and face need no introduction.
On 25 August, a special CBI court in Panchkula found Singh guilty of raping two of his female followers. While Panchkula has come to a standstill, anticipating violence from lakhs of Dera followers in light of the verdict, here’s a glimpse of the influence Baba Ram Rahim exerts.
Spread across 700 acres, the Dera Sacha Sauda ashram in Haryana's Sirsa is an ashram only for name's sake. It is a city in itself, an empire whose gates close and open at the behest of the godman.
The Two Worlds of Dera Sacha Sauda
The Dera Sacha Sauda ashram has two worlds. There's one which is open for everyone to see. It organises welfare programmes, has a dharamshala, and a hospital, images of which are shown to the outside world too from time to time.
For all the live updates in the Ram Rahim rape case, read: Ram Rahim Verdict Live
But Gurmeet Ram Rahim inhabits another world. The larger public does not have access to this world. When he is amidst people, talking to them, that’s the only time he is seen by the public.
What Happens in Baba's Personal World?
According to mediapersons who have been into the ashram, when Gurmeet Ram Rahim isn't meeting people, he’s in a cavernous room somewhere inside. While the room is shaped like a cave, it has all the amenities available outside, and more.
Interestingly, if the Baba has resigned to his cave, nobody – not even his closest aides – are allowed to meet him unless called upon. If a special guest arrives, or if there’s an emergency, Ram Rahim himself comes out.
Ram Rahim's World, Ram Rahim's Way
The ashram has everything one could ask for. Be it a luxury car, or high quality sports equipment that even government stadiums have never seen.
When Baba Ram Rahim wishes, he climbs onto a stage and a music concert happens for his admirers. If he feels like, he might dance for a film promotion. In several of his interviews, he's shown reporters a glimpse of his world and his way of life.
The ashram even has a high-end car modification studio. The Baba claims that even cars battered in an accident can be fixed up and modified here to be like new again. Ram Rahim has not one or two, but dozens of luxury cars, some of which are rarely found in India.
Journalists who have interviewed him inside the ashram report there’s a revolving restaurant within the premises, surrounded by water. Ram Rahim meets important guests and reporters at this restaurant.
On 15 August this year, when Ram Rahim turned 50, he cut a cake that weighed 51 quintal!
Baba Ram Rahim, the Sportsperson
Baba Ram Rahim has claimed in several interviews that he has expertise in 32 different kinds of sports. The Sirsa ashram houses every field and stadium related to all of these sports.
He also claims he can make a goal in football from a distance of 60 feet. The ashram sometimes even has day-night cricket matches.
The ashram hosts camps for drug alleviation, blood donation and other medical causes. Punjab and several parts of Haryana have been struggling with the problem of drug abuse for a while now, and Gurmeet Ram Rahim has worked on several aspects of this problem.
The world Gurmeet Ram Rahim has created in Sirsa has been in the media eye. But there are aspects of this world that will always remain shrouded in mystery.
(This article has been translated from Hindi by Suhasini Krishnan. It was first published on QuintHindi.)
(#TalkingStalking: Have you ever been stalked? Share your experience with The Quint and inspire others to shatter the silence surrounding stalking. Send your stories to email@example.com or WhatsApp @ +919999008335)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)