Rohtak-Hariyana: Dubbed the "Guru in Bling," Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has had to exchange the flamboyant clothes he favours for a prison-issued uniform, beginning life on Monday evening as prisoner number 1997 at the Sunaria jail near Haryana's Rohtak. He has been sentenced to 20 years in jail, 10 years each in two rape cases.
Since he was brought to the prison on Friday, when he was found guilty of raping two women followers and convicted, Ram Rahim, the head of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, has continuously wept and refused to speak to anyone or eat solid food, accepting only sips of milk and water, a man who was in prison and is now out on bail told NDTV.
"He drank only some water or milk in between. He did not speak to anyone in jail," the man said.
The 50-year-old self-styled spiritual guru also cried yesterday as he was sentenced. He sat on the floor of the prison-side court and wailed, "I am innocent... please forgive me." Witnesses said he had to be dragged out.
Ram Rahim will be lodged in what is called an approval cell at the Rohtak prison, chosen for its proximity to the offices of jail authorities. He will not share the cell with anyone, for security reasons, said jail officials.
Two policemen and two security guards will protect him. Outside prison, the Dera chief with a mass following in several states had been given Z plus security by the Haryana government, which was withdrawn after he was convicted and arrested.
Ram Rahim, who claims he has film stars, cricketers and politicians among his millions of supporters spread across several countries, had arrived in a 200-car motorcade at the Panchkula court which gave verdict in the two rape cases on Friday. The convoy had more than 25 luxury vehicles and the Dera chief rode in a bullet proof SUV.
After the verdict, he was flown, amid massive criticism, in a special chopper from Panchkula to the high security prison in Rohtak, as his followers went on the rampage clashing with the police and burning vehicles and public property. The violence, that began utside the Panchkula court, spread to other cities and neighbouring Punjab. There were incidents of arson in Delhi too. 38 people died and over 250 were injured in the violence.
Lakhs of his supporters had been allowed to gather in Panchkula ahead of the verdict and the Haryana government has been accused of underestimating the scale of violence that could follow.
For Monday's sentencing, the state government flew the judge from Panchkula to Rohtak in a government helicopter and he conducted court at the prison to prevent a repeat of Friday's violence. Thousands of policemen and paramilitary forces guarded the prison and the city of Rohtak which was sealed to prevent the entry of Dera followers. There were no reports of violence after Ram Rahim was sentenced.