CHANDIGARH: The same judge who convicted Guru Ram Rahim Singh for rape of two women followers last month began hearing -- in the same court in Panchkula -- two murder cases against the Dera Sacha Sauda chief on Saturday. As it transpired, there was none of the drama, nor any of the mayhem, that was witnessed after the rape conviction on August 25.
No followers of the baba were allowed into town. And the streets leading to the CBI Special Court were thoroughly sanitized by a heavy deployment of police and paramilitary personnel, unlike last month when utter pandemonium prevailed in this suburb of Chandigarh, leading to the police firing more than 1000 bulllets that killed 32 followers of the unorthodox cult.
The proceedings in the court room too were bereft of drama. The judge decided that proper hearings of the two murder cases will begin separately next week. The case relating to the murder of Dera Sacha Sauda manager Ranjit Singh will be heard on a daily basis from Monday and that relating to the killing of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati's case will be heard on September 22.
Ram Rahim himself took part in the hearing by way of video conferencing from his present lodgings in the Sunaria Jail in Rohtak while seven other accused turned up in person.
As with the two rapes, these two murders go back nearly 15 years. Chhatrapati was shot in October 2002 and died in November that year. Ranjit Singh was shot dead in July 2003. The Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered a CBI probe into the murders in November 2003.
The prosecution’s star witness could possibly be Khatta Singh, a former chauffeur of the godman. He had once been a hostile witness for the prosecution, but now he has come back from the cold to offer to spill the beans on his former employer.
Khatta Singh was once a close confident of Ram Rahim but fell out five years ago. Now that the godman is a convicted felon and the law enforcement agencies seem to be determined to throw the whole book at him, he is an enthusiastic witness in their hands.
Khatta Singh was present for Saturday’s hearing of the two murder cases and emerged from the court complex to furnish juicy information to the waiting media crews.
Chief among his disclosures was that Ram Rahim’s one-the-lam adopted daughter Honeypreet Kaur is not in fact somewhere on the Indo-Nepal border trying to sneak out, but very much in the vicinity, perhaps holed up in one of the several secretive establishments run by the Dera Sacha Sauda.
Amid the court proceedings Saturday, sources in the Haryana police too were eager to sex up the Honeypreet story, claiming to have found further tidbits about her living arrangements while she was in the care of her foster father.
In the Dera Sacha Sauda Dera headquarters in Sirsa, Ram Rahim lived on the third floor of the mansion and she on the first. Apparently, she had pink wardrobes in her bedroom. Further, on the farther side of the bathroom there was a lift that used to go up and open into Ram Rahim's bedroom.
There are likely to be more such revelations in the days to come with the police arresting Honeypreet’s driver in Rajasthan on Friday.