Honey preet even doled out the monthly al­lowance for Gurmeet’s real kids—Rs 5 lakh each monthly

India Today - - NA­TION | BI­HAR -

the ex-hus­band claimed a per­sist­ing life threat: “I am not sure whether I will be alive af­ter this press con­fer­ence.”

Born in 1980 to mid­dle-class par­ents in Haryana’s Fate­habad town, Priyanka Taneja, by most ac­counts, was an or­di­nary young girl. Su­nita Madaan, her for­mer class teacher who is now prin­ci­pal of Fate­habad’s DAV Cen­te­nary Pub­lic School, re­calls her as be­ing “not very good at stud­ies and just barely scrap­ing through ex­ams”. Madaan says no one in the school had any idea that Priyanka had be­come Honeypreet. “It was only af­ter all the pub­lic­ity fol­low­ing the dera chief’s con­vic­tion that we made the con­nec­tion,” she says. The prin­ci­pal dimly re­mem­bers that “while she was be­low av­er­age in aca­demics, the girl had a par­tic­u­lar fond­ness for singing and danc­ing”. IN

fact, few in Fate­habad seem to have any con­tin­u­ing links with Honeypreet. The last thing lo­cal res­i­dent San­deep Singh re­mem­bers is a whole lot of ex­cite­ment back in 1999, when Gurmeet Singh showed up at her (Honeypreet’s) wed­ding: “The whole place was ablaze with dec­o­ra­tive lights. It was eas­ily the big­gest event this place had wit­nessed un­til then,” he says. While there is no clar­ity on ex­actly when, res­i­dents say af­ter the wed­ding Honeypreet and her fam­ily re­lo­cated to the dera at Sirsa, where her fa­ther opened a small-time tyre re­tread­ing work­shop.

Al­ready among the guru’s ‘favourites’, it was af­ter her di­vorce that Honeypreet re­ally spread her wings, to the envy of many, tak­ing up per­ma­nent res­i­dence in Gurmeet Singh’s lav­ishly ap­pointed gufa. Re­ports quot­ing po­lice of­fi­cers who raided the dera premises in Sirsa claim her liv­ing quar­ters had di­rect and un­hin­dered ac­cess to the dera chief ’s cham­ber.

A se­nior of­fi­cial of the Haryana po­lice SIT says Honeypreet’s con­tin­ual prox­im­ity to the dera chief gave her un­bri­dled power within the Sacha Sauda. “She was all-in-all,” says the of­fi­cial, based on sus­tained in­ter­ro­ga­tions of top dera func­tionar­ies now in cus­tody, in­clud­ing Dhan Singh, le­gal head of the sect who was re­spon­si­ble for deal­ing with Gurmeet Singh’s lawyers, and Rakesh Ku­mar Arora a.k.a. ‘PA’, the dera chief’s man Fri­day.

Po­lice of­fi­cers who in­ter­viewed dera func­tionar­ies in Sirsa, in­clud­ing the sect’s in­cum­bent chair­per­son Vi­pas­sana, say that Honeypreet was also re­spon­si­ble for driv­ing a wedge be­tween Gurmeet Singh and his son Jas­meet In­san in 2015. By then all-pow­er­ful in the dera hi­er­ar­chy, Honeypreet wanted a merger be­tween Kings Bis­cuits (a fac­tory Jas­meet started in Sirsa in 2011) and MSG Prod­ucts, a food re­tail line launched that year. “Gurmeet Singh sided with Honeypreet forc­ing the merger, which de­prived Jas­meet of Rs 15-20 lakh in monthly earn­ings,” a Sacha Sauda in­sider told the po­lice, adding that the son wasn’t on talk­ing terms with his fa­ther af­ter that.

Honeypreet con­trolled all the fi­nances, dol­ing out monthly Rs 5 lakh al­lowances to Gurmeet Singh’s real chil­dren, a dera hand told the po­lice. “She even gifted her younger brother, Sahil Taneja, an Audi SUV some years ago,” a se­nior SIT of­fi­cer told in­dia to­day.

Af­ter his con­vic­tion on Au­gust 25, Gurmeet Singh’s fam­ily qui­etly with­drew to his an­ces­tral vil­lage, Gu­rusar Modiya, in Ra­jasthan’s Gan­gana­gar dis­trict. And while Honeypreet grabbed eye­balls

by en­gag­ing the Haryana po­lice in a breath­less chase across three states, there hasn’t been a peep out of his ‘real’ fam­ily mem­bers. Bar­ring, of course, the brief trip his age­ing mother Naseeb made to visit Gurmeet Singh in Ro­htak’s Su­naria jail on Septem­ber 25.

A lot of what Honeypreet claimed in her nine-minute chat-on-the-run with in­dia to­day TV ap­pears prob­lem­atic. Con­trary to her teary as­ser­tion that she never nursed any Bol­ly­wood dreams and wanted to re­main be­hind the scenes, Honeypreet fully shared Gurmeet Singh’s pen­chant for the bling life­style of os­ten­ta­tious, over-the-top cloth­ing, flashy cars and glitzy movies. Start­ing out in 2015, she has been in all his five movies, even co-di­rect­ing the last two—Hind ke Na­pak ko Jawab and Jattu En­gi­neer. Just a few months be­fore his in­car­cer­a­tion, Gurmeet Singh had fa­mously bragged that ‘Honeypreet has bro­ken Jackie Chan’s record by play­ing 21 dif­fer­ent roles’ in his now-un­likely-to-be-re­leased sixth movie, On­line Gu­rukul.

Also quite the so­cial me­dia an­i­mal, on www.hon­eypreetinsan.me, her per­sonal web por­tal, Honeypreet de­scribes her­self as a “phi­lan­thropist, cine ed­i­tor, ac­tor and di­rec­tor”. She has, be­lieve it or not, over one mil­lion fol­low­ers on Twit­ter and an­other 528,000 on Face­book. This hardly sounds like the ret­i­cent by­stander she now, un­der­stand­ably, wants to be seen as.

The only ‘fam­ily mem­ber’ by his side when Gurmeet Singh was con­victed of rap­ing two sad­hvis on Au­gust 25, Honeypreet was sub­se­quently also per­mit­ted to ac­com­pany him on­board the char­tered he­li­copter that fer­ried him to Ro­htak’s Su­naria jail. She even re­quested per­mis­sion to stay with the pris­oner in his jail cell as his “phys­io­ther­a­pist”, but was, ex­pect­edly, turned down.

It has been one hell of a chase since then. There’s ev­i­dence to show that Honeypreet headed back to reach the Dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa around 3.45 am on Au­gust 26. Sep­a­rat­ing from the rest, she left Sirsa head­ing out to Hanu­man­garh, where she stayed with rel­a­tives for a night be­fore trav­el­ling to Gu­rusar Modiya on Au­gust 28.

While the SIT, headed by Haryana po­lice ADGP P.K. Agar­wal, tracked her dili­gently and came close to nab­bing Honeypreet on more than one oc­ca­sion, she some­how al­ways man­aged to evade the posse. And for some­one who’s now pos­ing as a ‘damsel in de­pres­sion’, Honeypreet seems to be well versed in the ways of a sea­soned ab­scon­der.

Con­sider what the SIT now knows: Ac­com­pa­nied by just one or two per­sons at any given point and time, Honeypreet ditched the greater lux­ury of the top-of-the-line Lexus SUVs she was ac­cus­tomed to in Gurmeet Singh’s com­pany, for the rel­a­tive anonymity of smaller Hyundai and Maruti hatch­backs; smart­phones were re­placed by cheap Rs 800-1,000 fea­ture phones with the pre-ac­ti­vated, pre-paid SIM cards freely avail­able in Ra­jasthan (where Sacha Sauda has a sig­nif­i­cant fol­low­ing).

But like all fugi­tives, Honeypreet (or some­one ac­com­pa­ny­ing her), made the crit­i­cal er­ror that ev­ery good-cop-in-a-chase looks out for. Mo­bile phones, she was known to be car­ry­ing, were briefly switched on in Pun­jab on Oc­to­ber 1. Af­ter that, it was only a mat­ter of time.

Honeypreet In­san will now face a trial and pos­si­ble con­vic­tion. On Septem­ber 18, DGP B.S. Sandhu said a to­tal of 41 peo­ple were killed (35 in Panchkula and 6 in Sirsa) in the Au­gust 25 vi­o­lence, be­sides de­struc­tion of prop­erty worth crores.

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