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Dera chief convicted: Not a small task to expose a devil, says son of killed journalist

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We have struggled for a long time against such an influential person. A devil who covered his face with 'santgiri' and religion. It was not a small task to expose him, says son of journalist Ram Chander Chattarpati.

It was around 7:45 pm on October 24, 2002, when Anshul Chattarpati, 20, and his family sat down for dinner at their home in Sirsa that they heard gunshots. They rushed outside and found Anshul’s father Ram Chander Chattarpati lying on the ground. Chhatrapati was rushed to hospital but he succumbed to injuries within a few days.

Anshul Chattarpati, in an interview with The Indian Express, recounts that his father had told them that ‘Baba Gurmeet Singh’ was behind the attack on him as he had exposed the Dera chief and the illegal activities at the Sirsa Dera in his regional newspaper “Poora Sach”. Thus started Anshul’s 17-year-long battle for justice.

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On Friday, the CBI court in Panchkula convicted Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Rahim and three others.

Excerpts from the interview.

How do you react to the conviction of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh?

We have struggled for a long time against such an influential person. A devil who covered his face with ‘santgiri’ and religion. It was not a small task to expose him. The governments of the Centre and many states wanted to shelter him. Despite that, we kept struggling. We faced a lot of hardships. He used each and every tactic to delay the investigation and trial of the case. Despite all these obstacles, some people were doing their duty with honesty. Witnesses recorded their statements without selling their soul to anyone.

CBI, adalaton ne apna zameer nahi becha (CBI and the courts worked honestly). We had hopes of justice from the judiciary since the beginning. The verdict of August 25, 2017, against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in the rape case in which he was imprisoned for 20 years, was a historical one. It was against a person in front of whom the governments used to bow down. When this verdict came, the confidence of people in the judiciary increased. The accused may be howsoever influential but the courts in our country are capable of taming him.

Were you offered money for a compromise?

No direct offer was made to us. However, indirectly, it was conveyed by some politicians that the money is a great healer. These efforts to compromise were made indirectly with arguments like; the family has already suffered a loss and no risk of other loss should be taken.

How much money was quoted in these offers?

We were not told about the money directly. However, once somebody told me that you are being valued at Rs 5 crore. I never tried to search who had made that offer.

When were you given police protection?

We were given police protection in 2007 when CBI submitted its challan to the court. Then the CBI wrote to the Haryana DGP recommending police security to the main witnesses.

Had Haryana Police conducted a probe in the case, what do you think would have happened?

Haryana Police is capable to probe the cases had there been no pressure on them. I salute those policemen of the Haryana Police who caught one of the shooters on the spot. Had he not been caught, probably this case would not have reached this stage. Nobody would have accepted that the Dera was behind the attack on my father. We raised questions on the police probe because the (then) state government, on the behest of Dera Sacha Sauda, was putting pressure on the police. The CBI also faced pressure but conducted a thorough investigation and named the Dera chief as the main conspirator in its chargesheet. I also salute the CBI officers and their team.

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What was the biggest pressure you faced in this battle?

Our opponent was very influential and money was not a problem for them. He was capable of buying anybody. “Hamari bhi boli lagayi gayi, CBI officers ki bhi lagayi gayi, gawahon ki bhi lagayi gayi (They tried to buy us all, CBI officers and the witnesses too).” But it was a good thing that the CBI officers and witnesses cooperated with us fully.

You fought such a long battle. Would you get disturbed sometimes?

Not at all. When I moved from my home in 2003 with an aim to get justice for my father’s martyrdom, I never found myself alone. I got full support from my family. The media played an important role initially. We got full support from lawyers like Lekh Raj, Ashwini Bakshi, Rajiv Godara, senior advocate RS Cheema, Rajender Sachhar who fought this case like it was their duty.

What was the biggest strength for you during this battle?

We got ‘honsala’ (strength) in legacy, it’s in our blood. My father never lost hope. We learnt all this from him. He sacrificed his life… He had no personal enmity with Gurmeet Singh but despite that, he took a daring step to expose the Dera chief… When we felt that the government was under pressure and the police were not conducting a fair probe (in the murder case), then advocate Lekh Raj took my hand and said ‘nothing will happen by sitting idle’. He told me we have to move a petition in the High Court to seek a CBI probe. In all the 16 years since then, he has supported me.

What do you do for your livelihood?

I could not complete my graduation because of my father’s murder. For livelihood, we just rely on my father’s 20 acres of agricultural land.

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