Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Justice at last for murdered journalist

An Indian guru has been jailed for the rape of his female devotees and is also being prosecuted for conspiracy to murder a journalist.

It is 15 years since the journalist, Ram Chander Chhatrapati, was killed after publishing accusations of rape against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. In 2002, Chhatrapati ran an anonymous letter in his daily newspaper, Poora Sachh, exposing the ugly truth about Singh, who was a much-revered guru with a widespread following.

Chhatrapati had exposed the sexual exploitation of the guru’s sadhvis (women disciples) at the headquarters of the Dera faith in Sirsa. The journalist was shot dead at his home at point blank range.
The three-page letter he published was written by a woman in Hindi and addressed to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as well as to the heads of several institutions, including the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

His son, Anshul Chhatrapati, has welcomed the belated rape verdict and says he is now hopeful of getting justice at last for his father.

The intensity of feeling about the rape case led to 38 people being killed in riots following the conviction, and the judge even had to be flown in by helicopter to sentence the spiritual leader, known as the “guru in bling” for his penchant for bejewelled costumes.

The area was in lockdown after the verdict but it did not stop his followers rioting and burning a car outside the courthouse.

But it was a the journalist who broke the story which eventually led to the prosecution. It was only after the letter was published that India’s Central Bureau of Investigation looked into the rape allegations. Unfortunately it took several years to trace the guru’s victims and it was not until 2007 that two women came forward and filed rape charges.

Following his conviction for rape, Singh will now stand trial for conspiracy to murder.