Self-styled 'godman' Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, 52, who is serving a prison term for rape, has now been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a journalist in 2002. The journalist was murdered after he published content on sexual exploitation of women in Ram Rahim's ashram in Haryana's Sirsa.
The flamboyant chief of Dera Sacha Sauda, dubbed "Guru in bling" due to his fondness for glittering costumes and state-of-the-art motorcycles, was found guilty of rape in August 2017. He is now serving a 20-year sentence in Rohtak's Sunaria Jail.
The police have made elaborate security arrangements in place in Panchkula and Sirsa in view of the riots in four states that followed his earlier conviction.
Across Punjab and Haryana and in parts of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Dera followers had gone berserk. In the violence that followed, 38 people died, more than 200 were injured and property worth crores was vandalized. The violence had reached the borders of Delhi, where a bus was burned.
Yesterday, the special court in Haryana's Panchkula had accepted the Haryana government's request that Gurmeet Ram Rahim be sentenced through video conference as moving him could trigger a law and order situation. Security was stepped up outside the Panchkula court complex.
In 2017, the state government was severely reprimanded by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for failing to gauge the seriousness of the situation and preventing the violence.
Today, three others - close aides of Ram Rahim who were convicted in the murder case last Friday -- have also been given life terms through video conference.
Ram Chander Chhatrapati was shot in October 2002 outside his house after his newspaper ''Poora Sach'' published an anonymous letter narrating how women were being sexually exploited by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh at the sprawling, 800-acre headquarters of the Dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa.
The case, in which Ram Rahim was named the main conspirator, was registered in 2003 and handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation in 2006. The three others convicted - Kuldeep Singh, Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal - are lodged in Ambala Jail.