International desk, Jan 11: An Indian guru who is already in jail for rape has been convicted for the 2002 murder of a journalist.Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, was given a 20-year sentence in 2017 for raping two female followers, BBC reported.
He will be sentenced for the murder on 17 January.
Newspaper editor Ram Chander Chhatrapati was shot dead after exposing abuse at Dera’s headquarters in the north-western city of Sirsa.
Three other men were also convicted of Chhatrapati’s murder – Kuldeep Singh, Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal.
The self-styled holy man appeared at the court in Panchkula in Haryana state through a video link from his prison.
During the trial, security was stepped up across the state and in parts of Punjab – where most of Dera’s followers live.
Violence erupted after the sect leader’s rape conviction in August 2017, which resulted in the deaths of 38 people.
Soon afterwards, about 50 other women came forward with their own allegations about sexual abuse in the sect.
‘The complete truth’
Ram Rahim Singh, 51, had long painted himself as a pious spiritual leader, encouraging followers all over the world to take vows of abstinence and celibacy.
But this facade started to slip in 2002, with the publication of a letter in a local newspaper.
The article was written by an anonymous follower of Ram Rahim Singh, and published by Mr Chhatrapati in his Hindi-language newspaper Poora Sach – “The Complete Truth”.
It described instances of sexual abuse at the sect.
Anshul Chhatrapati, the late editor’s son, told The Print that his colleagues warned his father at the time to be careful, because “someone will shoot you one day”.
Five days later, on 24 October 2002, Dera Sacha Sauda followers shot Mr Chhatrapati outside his home.
Less than a month later, Mr Chhatrapati died – but the letter published in Poora Sach had already sparked a major investigation into abuse at the sect.
Anshul, who was 21 when his father died, took over the running of the newspaper, and pushed for rape and murder charges to be brought against Ram Rahim Singh.
“My father sacrificed his life for truth,” he said in the 2017 interview. “I could not have let his sacrifice go waste.”