The riches and clout of a guru who’s both Ram and Rahim
Since September 23, 1990, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been the powerful head of the spiritual cult of Dera Sacha Sauda headquartered in Sirsa, Haryana. He enjoys Z-plus security cover and his 900-acre ashram sees thousands, if not millions, converging for satsangs.
Influential deras in the states of Punjab and Haryana are known to enjoy political patronage and they, in turn, back political parties. With his humongous support base — Dera Sacha Sauda has 60 million followers worldwide, including in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and UAE — Singh commands phenomenal political influence in the region.
He is said to have earlier enjoyed the support of the Congress party. In 2014, just before the Haryana Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state chief led a team of 40 candidates to seek his blessings. Congress candidates such as Randeep Surjewala, too, turned to him for support. The political wing of the which has 46 ashrams across India, pledged its support to the BJP in dera, Haryana and later in Delhi. The cult also backed the BJP in the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections, with nearly 3,000 followers campaigning for the party in the state.
A larger-than-life figure, Singh is described as an “actor, director, singer, composer, inventor and scientist” on his website. His videos on YouTube show him hitting “eighters” in cricket matches and lifting tractors with ease.
Early last year, he also added entrepreneur against his name when he launched “MSG”, a line of products that includes eatables, cosmetics and grocery items. MSG is an acronym for Mastana Ji, Satnam Ji and Gurmeet Singh, the three gurus to have headed the dera since its inception in 1948. Most of the company’s manufacturing units are at Sirsa.
“Guruji”, as he is fondly called by his followers, also has a series of albums and movies, including MSG: The Messenger and MSG 2: The Messenger, to his name. In an earlier interview to Business
Standard, Ajay Dhamija of Hakikat Entertainment, the company that produced the films, claimed that the two parts made ~489 crore and ~165 crore, respectively — that’s more than many Bollywood blockbusters.
The dera has, in the past, helped with disaster relief, initiated cleanliness drives, set up charitable hospitals, worked for the welfare of transgenders and encouraged organic farming. Singh, for his efforts, has 19 Guinness World Records to his name, plaques of which proudly hang inside the ashram.
Controversy, however, has refused to leave his side. In 2001, Singh was booked for the murder of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chatrapati, who was writing about the activities of the dera. The following year, a woman follower wrote an anonymous letter to (then) prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, alleging that she had been sexually abused by Singh. He has also been accused of forcibly castrating 400 followers; an act he said would take them closer to god.