To sentence self-styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, a judge will fly into Rohtak in Haryana today on a government helicopter. After landing at a helipad near the prison where the "Guru of Bling" was incarcerated late on Friday night, Justice Jagdeep Singh will be escorted with thick security cover to a makeshift prison created within the jail located on the outskirts of Rohtak.
Ram Rahim was convicted on Friday by the same judge of raping two women followers in 2002; he faces a minimum of seven years in prison; the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. Justice Singh has been given special protection by the Haryana government.
Nearly 2,300 soldiers are guarding the prison to prevent against the violence that was unleashed on Haryana by Ram Rahim's followers on Friday after he was declared guilty. The town of Panchkula, where he was tried and convicted, went up in flames. In all, 38 people were killed in the violence and nearly 200 injured in riots that spiraled across cities. Hundreds of cars were set on fire.
Ram Rahim's sect, which claims millions of followers worldwide, is called the Dera Sacha Sauda. His "guru of bling" moniker is predicated on his taste for costumes heavy on leather, zips and rhinestones.
The Haryana government has been pilloried by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for deliberately compromising the safety of Panchkula by allowing lakhs of Ram Rahim's followers to accumulate there through last week ahead of the verdict. The High Court had warned that the situation was turning into a highly combustible one. The government claimed that it was ready, with thousands of troops and anti-riot police, but when Dera members broke into violence, the security forces were easily outnumbered. The High Court has accused the government of allowing Haryana to "burn" because of "political motives" - on account of his fanatic and vast following, Ram Rahim's political endorsement comes with the guarantee of lakhs of votes.
In 2014, he abandoned his support for the Congress to back the BJP.