Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the leader of Dera Sacha Sauda and a convict in both rape and murder cases, was granted a 21-day furlough on Monday. This marks his third temporary release from jail this year, the sixth in the past 21 months, and the eighth in the last three years.
The 56-year-old is expected to be released from Rohtak’s Sunaria prison on Tuesday and head to the Dera’s ashram at Barwana in the Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh. The Dera Sacha Sauda, headquartered in Sirsa, holds significant influence in the border regions of Haryana and Rajasthan, which are set to undergo Assembly polls on November 25.
Ram Rahim is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting two of his followers and a life sentence for the murder of a journalist. His most recent temporary release was a 30-day parole granted on July 20, during which he resided in Barwana and even celebrated his birthday on August 15.
He had previously received temporary release orders, including both parole and furlough. This occurred once in 2020 (October), once in 2021 (May), thrice in 2022 (February, June, October), and twice in 2023 (January and July). Additionally, on one occasion, he was temporarily released on medical grounds.
“Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been granted a 21-day furlough and he will be staying at his ashram in Uttar Pradesh,” confirmed a senior Haryana government officer.
While highlighting that Ram Rahim is serving a sentence for heinous crimes like murder and rape, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Harjinder Singh Dhami said, “The government’s repeated leniency, despite the serious nature of his crimes, is creating an atmosphere of disbelief among the Sikh community. The political interests of the government are causing Ram Rahim’s gruesome offenses to be overlooked, which is not in the best interest of the country.”
On numerous occasions in the past, Ram Rahim’s temporary release has coincided with elections in the northern region. In October 2022, he was given a 40-day parole before Haryana’s panchayat election and the Adampur assembly bypoll. Additionally, he was granted a 21-day furlough in February 2022, preceding the Assembly elections in neighboring Punjab.
In January, when the Dera chief received a 40-day parole, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar mentioned that he was “unaware of Ram Rahim being granted parole, but if he has, it must be after following due procedures, and that is his right; I will not intervene.”
During that parole period, a viral video depicted Ram Rahim celebrating his birthday by cutting a cake with a sword. In the video, he remarked, “After five years, I got a chance to celebrate like this, so I should cut at least five cakes; this is the first cake.”
Currently, Ram Rahim is involved in several other criminal cases, including the alleged castration of his disciples and sacrilege cases registered in Punjab.
In March, responding to a petition filed by the SGPC challenging Ram Rahim’s parole, Sunaria’s jail superintendent Suneel Sangwan stated in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, “1000 more convicts have been granted parole/ furlough under the similar provision but the petitioner [SGPC] has only challenged the parole to the dera chief to gain publicity.”
In August 2017, he was sentenced to 20 years in jail for raping two disciples. In 2019, the Dera chief and three others were convicted of the murder of a journalist more than 16 years ago.
Serving a life sentence in jail, the Dera chief has been granted temporary releases for a total of 184 days:
- October 2020: One-day parole to visit his ailing mother
- May 2021: One-day parole to meet his ailing mother
- February 7, 2022: 21-day furlough
- June 17, 2022: 30-day parole
- October 14, 2022: 40-day parole
- January 22, 2023: 40-day parole
- July 19, 2023: 30-day parole
- November 20, 2023: 21-day furlough