Chandigarh: Spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, age 50, has the sort of following in Punjab and Haryana that politicians would kill for. Thousands of supporters of the "Guru of Bling" as he is known have begun mapping the routes between their villages and a court in Haryana, which is expected on Friday to decide whether he is guilty of raping two women followers nearly 15 years ago.
- Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has lakhs of followers in Punjab, Haryana
- Verdict on Friday in case accusing him of raping 2 women followers
- Punjab and Haryana place thousands of cops on roads, ask for peace
"People are coming from all over for Guru-ji's court hearing," said Rajinder Singh, a follower who claims "lakhs" of others like him like are expected in the next 48 hours. Another fan, Sau Singh, said the verdict offers a chance to glimpse his leader in person. "I have come from Patiala for darshan."
Followers of Ram Rahim Singh - members of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect- are usually a boisterous lot, to say the least. When two films starring the self-styled guru were to be released, lakhs of his fans poured into a stadium in Gurgaon near Delhi, backing up traffic for several hours, for an audience with their leader.
Now, at least 7,000 policemen are being plotted both in the array of villages where Ram Rahim commands a mass following, and in the areas leading to the court in Panchkula, on the outskirts of Chandigarh. Lawyers who appear here say they're considering taking Friday off to avoid being caught in any violence. Two control rooms have been set up in the area to control the fallout of the verdict. Cars and trucks have been banned from roads near the court tomorrow and on Friday. In Chandigarh, a massive cricket stadium in the heart of the city is being prepped as a temporary jail to house law-breakers.
In his movies, "MSG: The Messenger of God" and "MSG2", Ram Rahim wears costumes with a surfeit of rhinestones, rides a motorcycle, and sends villains flying. In 2014, a court asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate claims that Ram Rahim forced 400 followers to undergo castrations at his ashram in Haryana in order to experience God. He has denied the allegations.
The case against him to be decided this week was filed in 2002 and accuses him of sexually exploiting two women at the sprawling headquarters of his sect in the town of Sirsa in Haryana, about 260 kms from Chandigarh. Ram Rahim has denied the charges; critics say that the trial began nearly five years after the complaint was made points to his vast political influence which is based on the sheer volume of his supporters.
He is also accused of murder of a journalist who was a follower. Last week, he said he was too unwell to appear for a court hearing in the murder case.
He has been told to be present for the verdict on Friday - but sources say he may choose to appear via video-con instead.