AFTER 38 DAYS ON THE RUN, THE INCARCERATED GURU’S FLAMBOYANT COMPANION IS ARRESTED—BUT NOT BEFORE SOME MORE TELEVISED HISTRIONICS
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