India Today - - INSIDE - By ASIT JOLLY

The jailed dera guru’s flam­boy­ant com­pan­ion is fi­nally ar­rested—but not be­fore some tele­vised histri­on­ics

She’s singing a whole new tune now. “I am in­no­cent! My Papa is in­no­cent!” Priyanka Taneja a.k.a. Honeypreet Kaur In­san told in­dia to­day Tele­vi­sion in an exclusive in­ter­view just hours be­fore the Haryana and Pun­jab po­lice squads tracked her down and ar­rested her at the Panchkula-Zi­rakpur state-line out­side Chandigarh on the af­ter­noon of Oc­to­ber 3.

She had been on the run for 38 days, ever since the Haryana po­lice spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion team (SIT) posted look­out no­tices for her, three days af­ter Dera Sacha Sauda ad­her­ents in­dulged in ar­son and vi­o­lence fol­low­ing dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s con­vic­tion on Au­gust 25. The po­lice named Honeypreet among the 43 dera func­tionar­ies ac­cused of con­spir­acy, in­cit­ing vi­o­lence and sedi­tion.

Teary-eyed, Honeypreet in­sists she has com­mit­ted no wrong. “You’ve all seen what hap­pened. I ac­com­pa­nied my Papa (Gurmeet Singh) to court. There was so much se­cu­rity. How could I have en­tered (the court) with­out per­mis­sion?” she asked. Close to break­ing down sev­eral times through the nine-minute con­ver­sa­tion, the dera chief’s favourite ‘daugh­ter’ ad­mit­ted she was “fright­ened” and in a “deep de­pres­sion”. The se­ri­ous­ness and enor­mity of her sit­u­a­tion, which could well bring jail time, per­haps fi­nally dawn­ing on her,

Honeypreet said, “They are ac­cus­ing me of desh­droh (sedi­tion)!”

But just hours away from be­ing ar­rested, Honeypreet also re­tained some of the brazen­ness she’s of­ten been ac­cused of. Asked about some dera fol­low­ers, in­clud­ing her for­mer hus­band Vish­was

Gupta, ac­cus­ing her of ‘in­ap­pro­pri­ate’ re­la­tions with Gurmeet Singh,

Honeypreet bris­tled: “Who are th­ese peo­ple? Does any­one even know them? They are no­body!”

It was the kind of blus­ter she had shown in 2011 too. At the district court in Sirsa with a dowry ha­rass­ment case against her for­mer hus­band, his lawyer Pankaj Bhard­waj vividly re­calls how “each time her spouse got up to make a state­ment, she would threat­en­ingly glare at him and point at her shoe”.

No ‘blush­ing bride’, Honeypreet had mar­ried Gupta, a grand­son of two-time Haryana (Gharounda) MLA Ru­lia Ram on the ask­ing of the dera chief on Fe­bru­ary 14, 1999. But it was all ap­par­ently part of a sor­did ‘ar­range­ment’, shock­ingly re­vealed when Gupta pe­ti­tioned the high court in Oc­to­ber 2011. A third-gen­er­a­tion Sacha Sauda ad­her­ent, Gupta told the court that his wife, who had been chris­tened ‘Honeypreet’ and adopted by Gurmeet Singh, was in fact be­ing “sex­u­ally ex­ploited by the dera chief”. He also al­leged that af­ter not be­ing per­mit­ted to con­sum­mate his mar­riage for 11 long years, he faced death threats from Gurmeet Singh’s hench­men af­ter he saw the guru en­gag­ing in sex with his adopted daugh­ter.

Ev­i­dently at his wits’ end, Gupta told Bhard­waj and later a news con­fer­ence in Chandigarh, that Honeypreet was the dera chief ’s con­stant com­pan­ion, even shar­ing ho­tel rooms with him when trav­el­ling out of Sirsa. She was the only one who had liv­ing quar­ters in­side Gurmeet Singh’s in­fa­mous gufa (cave), while ev­ery­one else, in­clud­ing mother Naseeb Kaur, wife Har­jeet Kaur and his real chil­dren lived in sep­a­rate homes on the ex­ten­sive Sacha Sauda premises.

“In June 2011, af­ter he walked in on them hav­ing sex, Vish­was was thrashed by Ram Rahim and warned against re­veal­ing any­thing,” claims the lawyer. Days later, when his fa­ther Mo­hin­der Pal Gupta (a re­tired Haryana ex­ec­u­tive engi­neer) was treated to a sim­i­lar drub­bing by the dera chief, the fam­ily de­cided to move out to rented ac­com­mo­da­tion in Panchkula. But the threats fol­lowed them. A group of dera hench­men stalked Gupta for a long time, not­ing his ev­ery move­ment, peo­ple he met or spoke to. When he even­tu­ally gath­ered the courage to pe­ti­tion the high court in Chandigarh, Gupta sought two things: pro­tec­tion from the dera’s goons and the re­lease of his wife from the “clutches” of Gurmeet Singh. Honeypreet and the dera fol­low­ers deny the charges.

Whether be­daz­zled by the wealth and power at her com­mand, or just smit­ten by Gurmeet Singh, Honeypreet re­sponded by slap­ping a dowry ha­rass­ment case against Gupta and his fam­ily. In a po­lice case filed in Sirsa, she al­leged her hus­band had de­manded Rs 2 lakh from her fam­ily. In the court­room in Sirsa, she told Gupta’s coun­sel that “he will pay dearly for dar­ing to go against Pi­taji”.

She re­mained firmly on the dera chief ’s side even as the Gup­tas were hounded with mul­ti­ple cases filed against both fa­ther and son in Ra­jasthan, Gu­jarat and even Mum­bai. “Forced to live in con­stant fear, the fam­ily was lit­er­ally re­duced to penury with no re­sources to pur­sue the le­gal bat­tles with the dera,” says Bhard­waj. They even­tu­ally gave up, with a widely pub­li­cised apol­ogy amid thou­sands of premis (dera ad­her­ents) at Sirsa wherein Gupta and his fa­ther pub­licly with­drew ev­ery al­le­ga­tion they had made against Gurmeet Singh. As a set­tle­ment, all the cases against Gup­tas mag­i­cally dis­ap­peared. The set­tle­ment how­ever, also re­quired that he agree to divorce by mu­tual con­sent. Yes, Honeypreet got to stay where she most wanted to be—by the side of her ‘dot­ing daddy’.

No­tably, Gupta, who has since re­mar­ried and has two chil­dren and lives un­der po­lice pro­tec­tion in Kar­nal, re­vived his al­le­ga­tions at a Septem­ber 22 news con­fer­ence in Chandigarh, a month af­ter Gurmeet Singh’s con­vic­tion. Ev­i­dently dis­traught,

It’s been one hell of a chase. She was al­ways a step ahead of the SIT posse chas­ing her

CELL TIME Honeypreet at a Haryana po­lice sta­tion af­ter her ar­rest

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