Sikhs around the world have been reacting to the news that famous Indian spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been convicted of rape.
The self-styled Guru has often been berated by the Sikh community for his attempts to portray himself in a similar style to the Sikh Gurus, based on the way he often dresses and his use of the surname Singh. The leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda organisation, which many call a “cult”, has amassed a huge following despite having been involved in countless controversies dating back decades.
Today Gurmeet Ram Rahim was officially convicted of rape based on an allegation dating back to 2002 in a court in the city of Panchkula, with the sentence set to be given on Monday. The tensions around the ongoing case have resulted in mobile data blocks in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
The Sikh community seems to have largely welcomed the conviction of Rahim. Although portraying himself as a Guru and believed by hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) to have been a holy-man, Rahim has consistently been accused of many heinous crimes; from forced/unconsented castration, to murder and sexual abuse.
The convicted rapist, accused of murder and forced castrations, is no stranger to controversy. In 2007, he received worldwide condemnation from Sikhs for trying to ridicule the Sikh faith by wearing a turban with a plume that is typically associated with the 10th Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh.
Such a controversial figure, with his history of criminality and corruption, further mocked the Sikh faith by adopting the surname ‘Singh’. There was outcry and condemnation of his attempts to malign the integrity and authenticity of their faith from Sikhs across the globe.
News of the conviction has already resulted in mass rioting from his followers and the deaths of currently five people. The situation across India is likely to remain tense, especially around Punjab which is where the case was heard and many of Rahim’s followers are based, as the Indian Army have been brought in to quell tensions.
Many in the Sikh community also feel the shock at Rahim’s conviction is a sign of how the Indian judiciary system is perceived, with a belief that influential figures are often placed above the law. Rahim’s open support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had him viewed as a key figure in what is often referred to as “vote bank politics”.
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