“He showed us the real problems in the world…by meditation, or the method of meditation which we call Simran,” says Manoj Arora.
“Simran showed us a light, a light that revealed what is good or bad,” says the 30-year-old Premi, sitting in a large group a short distance from the Panchkula district court that has been completely cordoned off and sanitized by the police.
The followers have refused to leave despite a video appeal from Gurmeet Ram Rahim asking them to leave the town. For two days, they have been sleeping near the highway outside the town, spreading tarpaulins on the ground. There are no toilets, so they have been using petrol stations, hidden corners, roadsides and also the banks of a river nearby. Dera followers in the city have been providing them food.
Every Premi feels “unconditional love” for Gurmeet Ram Rahim, insists Manoj Arora.
Every Sunday, the flashy Ram Rahim, popular by multiple nicknames like “Guru in bling” and “Rockstar baba” holds a “darshan” or sighting for hordes of devotees who flock to Sirsa town in Haryana, home to the sprawling Dera headquarters.
The self-styled “godman” has been controversial for years. He is accused of sexually exploiting two women followers at his Sirsa ashram in 2002. He is accused in the murder of a journalist. In 2007, he was in trouble for dressing up as Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.
Despite the notoriety, Ram Rahim draws a huge crowd as he presides over Satsangs or gatherings in glittering and often outlandish costumes. The Premis gather from various parts to hear the message delivered by the “Pita ji“.
The supporters say their main agenda is social welfare. “We are into blood donation, tree plantation, cleanliness drives, rescuing prostitutes and making them our daughters,” said Manoj.
In the past few years, the Dera chief has debuted as a filmmaker, producing and starring in three films in the “MSG – Messenger of God” franchise and crediting himself with every possible role including editing, choreography and scriptwriting.
How do the devotees sustain their faith? Manoj says with a beatific smile: “When you have a Rasgulla, only then you know what it is and how good it feels…Till you be a part of our Sangat and do Simran you will not understand. How the will-power of a person increases is amazing.”
Kiran Pal, a 25-year-old devotee who has attached the label “Insan” to designate himself a true Dera follower, says: “He ended drugs and has done good work like blood donation and getting prostitutes back into the system.”
Even his films have a purpose, insists Pal.”He has helped lakhs through his films. The young generation is motivated by him to be on the right path,” he says on Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s “superhero” avatar in the films.