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‘Sleuths dithered, witnesses cowered’: Conviction of Dera chief wasn’t an easy task

NEW DELHI: The conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was not an easy task as the political clout enjoyed by the self-styled godman made marshalling evidence against him a major challenge for the CBI.

It was a probe no one wanted to pursue and witnesses and victims were either killed, went missing or retracted their statements out of fear for their life, said retired police officer M Narayanan, who led the CBI probe into the rape and murder cases.

“For five years, between 2002 and 2007, despite a high court order, nobody did anything because of his political clout. The CBI investigation against him didn’t move much. We then decided we have to collect evidence against him, record statements of victims in rape and murder cases, but it was very difficult,” he told TOI.

Going by the timeframe, the state was ruled by an Indian National Lok Dal (INLD)-led government and then Congress between 2002 and 2007 when the probe against the dera chief was stalled.

“Initially, around 10 sadhvis who had left the Dera and could give statements were listed by us. But only two of them showed the courage and recorded statements under Section 164 CrPC before a magistrate,” Narayanan said.

A former deputy inspector general, Narayanan, who retired from the CBI in 2009 as a joint director, said the agency didn’t act against the Baba initially, leading to an internal enquiry in 2007 against officers who scuttled the probe. The findings were not made public as the agency filed a chargesheet against Ram Rahim the same year.

Narayanan, who joined the CBI as a sub-inspector and retired as joint director, asserted that Ram Rahim was almost “untouchable”. His massive following, which tilted elections, allowed him to attain a larger than life image in Haryana and Punjab. A former CBI director, who did not want to be quoted, said, “All governments at that time tried everything to save this criminal, selfstyled godman. Because of his vote bank, our political system had become helpless and rule of law was mocked year after year.”

Narayanan said while the CBI was probing these cases, many powerful politicians and businesspersons walked into its headquarters and put pressure to close the case. The statements in 2007 didn’t come without drama and pressure. Narayanan said it was tough to convince the two sadhvis, who had left the dera long ago and were married, to record statements.

“We told them that nothing will happen to them and even wrote to the state police to provide them security. One of the rape victims, whose testimony helped in Ram Rahim’s conviction on Friday, was under tremendous pressure from several dera followers. On one particular night, she was surrounded by several Dera followers and it wasn’t easy for enforcement agencies to get to her. We sneaked into the place at night and got her removed from there. She stood her ground and gave a detailed testimony against Ram Rahim,” Narayanan said.

One of the sadhvis later retracted her statement.

When the CBI decided to question Ram Rahim at his Sirsa compound in 2007, officers were initially not allowed inside. “It was like a fortress. Everybody was allowed to go inside after proper checks and guards roamed everywhere. But we managed to question the dera chief during which he denied all allegations,” Narayanan said.

Source : timesofindia

This post first appeared on Daily Kiran, please read the originial post: here

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‘Sleuths dithered, witnesses cowered’: Conviction of Dera chief wasn’t an easy task


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