Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, August 24
Besides spirituality, there seems many other things that attract people in droves to become followers of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda.
The controversial Dera is in limelight these days with Dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh facing the verdict in a rape case against him. Lakhs of followers have made a beeline to Panchkula where the Special CBI court will deliver the verdict on Friday afternoon.
Thousands others are gathering in the worship centres called ‘Naam Charcha Ghars’ in Haryana and Punjab praying that the verdict goes in the dera head’s favour.
Why do so many people throng the Dera and follow the sect head who has repeatedly courted controversy besides acting in films. He is probably the only sect head in the country to have acted in films.
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Caste equality at the dera is one such reason. “We experience peace in the spiritual environs at the Sirsa Dera and at various Naam Charcha Ghars in our town. Besides, the Dera life provides an equal status to all castes,” says Prem Insaan, a resident of a colony near Bathinda Railway Station.
He says there is so much discrimination in society on the basis of caste. “Different communities and castes have their own temples and gurdwaras in Punjab and Haryana, but at our Dera all are equal. We all have one surname—Insaan—which means human. The Dera advocates humanity. We may be Hindu, Sikh or anything else, but we have failed to end caste divisions in society. At the Dera, these divisions get erased,” Prem adds.
Humble management ranking
For some, the humble ranking of the Dera management is also an attraction. Sukhvir Insaan, a Dalit from Mansa, says the Dera management has devised nomenclature like Insaan to advocate not just equality but also humility. “The management divides the state into zones which are further divided into units. Each unit is headed by a man who is given the title Bhangi Dass. The word Bhangi is used for low-caste people. But when the unit head is called this, it lends it respect. That is why so many low-caste people are Dera followers.”
Subsidised food and free medicine
Subsidised food and free medicine is another huge attraction. “The Dera headquarters in Sirsa and the district units provide subsidised ration to its members. This is a boon for the poor. Unlike government schemes, like free ration for BPL families, which are often delayed or marred by corruption, the supply of subsidised ration at the Dera is smooth and equal for all,” says Bathinda-based follower Swarn Insaan.
Dera followers have a high concentration in the belt comprising Sangrur, Barnala, Mansa, Bathinda, Fazilka, Faridkot and Ferozepur districts. Most of these districts are close to Sirsa in Haryana and are thus influenced by the Dera. The region is plagued by cancer and knee problems owing to the bad quality of water. The dera offers free treatment to such patients.
“They have a system of providing free treatment. A Bhangi Dass collects slips from the followers in his area about the disease they are suffering from. He coordinates with the Dera headquarters and takes appointment. The free treatment, along with the spiritual environs of the Dera, acts as a great pull for poor patients or even those from middle-class families,” says a Bhangi Dass from Sangrur.
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