Self-styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was today sentenced to 20 years in prison for the rape of two women followers in 2002, by a judge who flew by government helicopter to conduct court at a prison in Haryana’s Rohtak. The 50-year-old chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect sat on the floor and wept as he was sentenced. Ahead of the judge’s order today, thousands of soldiers enforced a lockdown in Rohtak and other parts of Haryana and Punjab, where Ram Rahim has a mass following. His followers went on a deadly rampage after he was convicted on Friday, with 38 people killed and over 200 injured in the violence. There were no reports of violence today after Ram Rahim was sentenced.
Ram Rahim will serve two 10-year terms consecutively in the two rape cases, Judge Jagdeep Singh ruled and has also fined him Rs. 15 lakh in each case. “Mujhe maaf kar do (Please forgive me),” said Ram Rahim as he wept in court, pleading that he is innocent. His lawyers sought a lighter sentence in view of what they called his humanitarian work. They said they will appeal in a higher court.
The two women who accused Ram Rahim of raping them 15 years ago have sought more punishment for him and their lawyer asked investigators to probe dozens more alleged cases of abuse. The CBI has asked the court to consider a longer prison term for the Dera chief.
Ram Rahim will be medically examined and then will don prison clothes as prisoner number 1997 at the Rohtak jail. Since Friday, when he was flown to Rohtak in a luxury helicopter, Ram Rahim reportedly occupied a special cell and was given bottled water and was allowed an assistant amid massive criticism.