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’48 more Ram Rahim victims, may have been killed or too scared to come out’

’48 more Ram Rahim victims, may have been killed or too scared to come out’

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s victims are not happy with the 10-year jail term given to the head of the Dera Sacha Sauda for sexually exploiting them between 1999 and 2001.

Utsav Singh Bains, lawyer for the victims, said he would seek a longer sentence and asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe dozens more alleged cases of abuse.

“We will file two appeals shortly. One for enhancement of the punishment and another for further investigation into the case,” Bains told AFP by phone.

“We believe there are at least 48 more victims who were sexually abused and who may have been killed or are too scared to come out and testify against Ram Rahim.”

The special CBI court on Monday sentenced the controversial spiritual leader to 10 years in prison for raping two of his devotees, days after his followers went on a rampage that left 38 dead.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, 50, had been convicted on Friday of raping the two women at the sprawling headquarters of his hugely popular Dera Sacha Sauda sect in the northern state of Haryana, in a case dating back more than 15 years.

Self-styled “godman” Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh inspired extraordinary devotion in India, where huge crowds flocked to hear his teachings — even after he was accused of rape in a high-profile case that ended in conviction.

Singh counted film stars, cricketers and politicians among his legions of supporters.

But the most devoted were the vast numbers of ordinary Indians, many of them poor, who flocked to the sprawling headquarters of his controversial sect in the northern Indian state of Haryana to hear his teachings.

There, delirious devotees were said to weep with joy and fall at his feet for blessings.

They called Singh “pitaji”, or “revered father”, and said his message of living simply and eschewing meat and alcohol had changed their lives.

That Singh’s own life was far from simple did not seem to matter.

The extravagantly-bearded 50-year-old was dubbed the “guru in bling” for his flamboyant wardrobe, which included trousers emblazoned with sequins.

He travelled in a convoy of SUVs, starred in pop videos and even launched his own “Messenger of God” movie franchise in which he performed miracles, preached to thousands and beat up gangsters — all while singing and dancing.

In the latest, “MSG — The Warrior Lion Heart”, he played a secret agent fighting aliens and UFOs.

That spawned a line of merchandise including T-shirts, caps and other insignia emblazoned with Singh’s smiling face.

But the razzmatazz of his showbusiness career concealed a darker side to Singh’s story.

In 2002, an anonymous letter was sent to then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee accusing the guru of repeatedly raping the sender and several other women at the headquarters of his sect in Haryana.

A judge asked the Central Bureau of Investigations to look into the accusations, but it took years to trace the alleged victims and it was not until 2007 that two women came forward and filed their complaint.

A local journalist who had covered the case was later killed. Singh still faces a conspiracy charge for alleged involvement, which he denies.

He is also being investigated for allegedly persuading up to 400 of his followers to undergo castration.

Despite the charges he faced, he was courted by politicians eager to win his support — and by extension that of his many followers.

Recent images showed Singh taking part in a cleanliness drive with the Haryana chief minister, who has been criticised for failing to prevent his supporters from going on a violent rampage after his conviction on Friday.

He had been chosen to head the Dera Sacha Sauda — a controversial sect that describes itself as pan-religious and has angered Sikhs and Hindus — as a child and formally took on the role when he was 23.

Despite his larger-than-life public persona, little is known about Singh’s personal life.

According to his website, he was born on August 15, 1967, the only child of wealthy parents in western Rajasthan.

“Soon, his parents realised that he wasn’t merely a child but the image of the lord. And thus, they never hurt him physically or verbally,” says his profile.

Singh is married and has two daughters and a son. In 2009 he adopted one of his female followers, Honeypreet Insan, who reportedly calls herself “papa’s angel” and is thought to be his intended successor.

He has sought to portray himself as a social reformer, promoting vegetarianism, campaigning against drug addiction and holding huge blood donation camps.

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