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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Person of the week
Dark history behind India’s ‘guru in bling’
    2017-September-1  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

THE flamboyant chief of India’s Dera Sacha Sauda sect, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, has been convicted of rape by an Indian court.

With a life story as astonishing and colorful as the films he made, the self-styled “godman” is revered by his supporters — even after he was convicted in the high-profile case.

The case was being tried in a special court run by India’s top agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Some 15,000 police and soldiers were deployed in Panchkula, the town where his trial took place, for fear of violence.

Tens of thousands of his devotees had traveled there to protest his innocence, while Internet and phone services were throttled in a bid to forestall unrest. Police say at least 38 supporters of Singh were killed in the rioting that broke out minutes after the verdict was announced.

Singh, who had denied the charges, went for the hearing with a 100-vehicle convoy. He was whisked off in a government helicopter after the verdict, accompanied by his adopted daughter, and taken to a jail in the city of Rohtak.

Singh’s sect claims to have more than 60 million followers around the world. He counted film stars, cricketers and politicians among his legions of supporters.

But the most devoted were the vast numbers of ordinary Indians, many of them poor, who flocked to the sprawling headquarters of his controversial sect in the northern Indian state of Haryana to hear his teachings.

There, delirious devotees were said to weep with joy and fall at his feet for blessings.

They called Singh “pitaji,” or “revered father,” and said his message of living simply and eschewing meat and alcohol had changed their lives.

“He is like my parents, in fact more than my parents,” follower Saroj Yadav told BBC reporters earlier this week. “I have been a follower for 25 years. Three generations of my family have been his followers. I sent my children to the school and colleges in the Dera (Singh’s vast headquarters complex),” she said.

“He taught us to serve other people,” she explains. “He gives accommodation to poor people to live, helps them a lot.”

Her son, Sonu Yadav, agreed. “Babaji [roughly translating to respected father] gave us moral values and taught us how to live like good human beings. He taught us meditation.”

That Singh’s own life was far from simple did not seem to matter to his followers.

The extravagantly bearded 50-year-old was dubbed the “guru in bling” for his flamboyant wardrobe, which included trousers emblazoned with sequins.

He traveled in a convoy of SUVs, starred in pop videos and even launched his own “Messenger of God” movie franchise in which he performed miracles, preached to thousands and beat up gangsters — all while singing and dancing.

In the latest, “MSG — The Warrior Lion Heart,” he played a secret agent fighting aliens and UFOs.

“His swagger is unmistakably Bollywood, enough to brand him the ‘baap’ [father] of all heroes,” according to a review of the movie in The Hindustan Times.

The showbusiness has spawned a line of merchandise including T-shirts, caps and other insignia emblazoned with Singh’s smiling face.

But the razzamatazz of his showbusiness career concealed a darker side to Singh’s story.

In 2002, an anonymous letter was sent to then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee accusing the guru of repeatedly raping the sender and several other women at the headquarters of his sect in Haryana.

A judge asked the Central Bureau of Investigations to look into the accusations, but it took years to trace the alleged victims and it was not until 2007 that two women came forward and filed their complaint.

A local journalist who had covered the case was later killed. Singh still faces a conspiracy charge for alleged involvement, which he denies.

He is also being investigated for allegedly persuading up to 400 of his followers to undergo castration.

Despite the charges he faced, he was courted by Indian politicians eager to win his support — and by extension that of his many followers.

Recent images showed Singh taking part in a cleanliness drive with the Haryana chief minister, who has been criticized for failing to prevent his supporters from going on a violent rampage after his conviction Aug. 25.

He had been chosen to head the Dera Sacha Sauda — a controversial sect that describes itself as “a nonprofit social welfare and spiritual organization” and has angered Sikhs and Hindus — as a child and formally took on the role when he was 23.

Despite his larger-than-life public persona, little is known about Singh’s personal life.

According to his website, he was born Aug. 15, 1967, the only child of wealthy parents in western Rajasthan. His father Maghar Singh was a landlord in Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar district. Mother Naseeb Kaur was a god-fearing housewife.

“Soon, his parents realized that he wasn’t merely a child but the image of the lord. And thus, they never hurt him physically or verbally,” said his profile.

Before becoming an ascetic, he had a family that he had officially renounced but like all other dualities in his life, he continued to be the head of the family and keep them in the sect’s headquarters.

His two daughters are married to men given fancy names by the guru. The daughters have also acted in his MSG series of films. The sons-in-law assist in managing his business. His son is married to a Punjab Congress MLA’s daughter Husanmeet Kaur.

In 2009 he adopted one of his female followers, Honeypreet Insan, who reportedly calls herself “papa’s angel” and is thought to be his intended successor.

He has sought to portray himself as a social reformer, promoting vegetarianism, campaigning against drug addiction and holding huge blood donation camps.

His official website describes him as a “spiritual saint, philanthropist, versatile singer and all-rounder sportsperson.”

But he has antagonized other religious communities, notably the Sikhs. There were riots in the Sikh heartland of Punjab after Singh appeared in an advertisement dressed like Guru Gobind Singh, a revered Sikh guru.

In 2010, the sect organized a mass marriage where more than 1,000 followers “volunteered” to marry sex workers.

Singh built a cave-themed palatial underground home where he would meditate and sexually exploit women. Based on the concept of harems in palaces, he chose girls from among the devotees, made them surrender their bodies before him and these women would later be married off to male devotees who followed his orders. These women were guarded by men allegedly neutered or castrated.

The rape, by the way, was called an act of pardon. Some women, as was later revealed, believed it was a blessing. But not all.

The two women who testified against him had similar stories. One complainant told the court that she was called by Singh into his gufa (cave) on the intervening night of Aug. 28 and 29, 1999 for granting pardon. He threatened to kill her if she did not give in. The rape made her realize the reality of the dera. She complained to her brother, who revolted and escaped with her. He was later murdered.

The second complainant had grown up in Singh’s headquarter complex where her parents taught in a school. She was a guard of the guru’s cave residence. He called her into his room one day and raped her. She managed to escape later and lived to tell her story to the court.(SD-Agencies)

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