For many the name Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh did not ring a bell until 2015 when the trailer of MSG: Messenger of God came out. An outrageous pastiche of superhero movie tropes, the film saw the godman from Punjab, dressed in one over-the-top outfit after another, save the world and its attendant morals. Needless to say it was written, directed, edited by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhji Insaan or Guruji, as he is to his followers.
Today the head of Dera Sacha Sauda which he happened to join after dropping out of school, a father of three kids, Baba Ram Rahim is a household name. Not because the films have been such huge hits, not also because of his over-the-top outfits, his concerts which see him belting out songs like Love charger or the outlandish stunts he performs on-screen, but also because of the 15-yr-old case which had been on hold till today.
Now that a judgement is passed and the self style God Man is declared guilty of molesting one of his female followers, what follows next is major riots disturbing the peace of a large part of North India.
Born to a Jaat Sikh family in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, Singh first hit the headlines in 2007 when he invited the wrath of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhism by allegedly imitating the 10th Sikh guru Guru Gobind Singh. Violent clashes followed, as did death threats. Eventually Singh was rewarded with a Z security cover and in 2015, owing to the political demands of the day, the Akal Takht also pardoned him.
As the Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Singh was instrumental in making lakhs of people quit the habit of alcohol and drugs, something which multiplied his followership and made people crazy for him.
However, a charge that dates back to 2002 turned his world upside down when an anonymous female follower wrote to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee alleging sexual abuse by Singh, of not just herself but even other women in the sect. To add to it was a murder charge against Singh of a Sirsa-based journalist who was writing about the activities of the Dera.
Even as the charges were made, Singh started expanding his footprint and his base. From large-scale blood donation camps to rehabilitation centres, the Dera’s public service activities are much touted among its followers.
And as the Guru’s illusions of grandeur have grown, so have his flirtations with politics. In an obvious attempt, he has even tried to replicate the success of yet another television success story, Baba Ramdev, by launching his own consumer goods products ranging from eatables to groceries. It is titled the MSG range of products.
The Dera chief has ticked all the boxes of being a godman with his meteoric success, affluence, power and brush with the law. It remains to be seen whether justice is done beyond the papers or the humongous rise of Singh’s religious aura only aids him.