The premise is spread over 23 acres on the old Mumbai-Pune highway.
Mumbai: The ashram premises of the self-styled godman Gurmeet Baba Ram Rahim Singh, who heads the sect Dera Sacha Sauda, at Khalapur in Raigad wore an unusual calm on Monday after a Haryana court awarded him a jail term of 20 years in a 2002 case for raping two of his female followers. Around 23 followers, who stay at the ashram observed a fast on the verdict day and held a prayer meeting inside the ‘Sabhagriha’, according to sources.
The premise is spread over 23 acres on the old Mumbai-Pune highway. The area around the monastery wore an empty look as residential settlements are located a few kilometres away and not many knew about Ram Rahim or the existence of his ashram here.
A group of around 20 followers left from the premises late on Monday evening after the sentence was pronounced, the police said. “The group comprised men who said they wanted to return to Haryana. They touched our feet and asked us to take care of the ashram and left,” said S.H. Patil, an officer from Mangaon police station, who was part of the security cordon.
The land parcel has one 4-storey structure at the foothill, which can be seen from the highway and is stated to house lavish rooms of the arrested godman. There are two other structures that house a small bakery-cum-kitchen, a sabhagriha (meeting hall) and a cowshed that has six cows.
“The premise was never accessible for local villagers. We do not even know what activities took place inside. Ram Rahim would come once a year, he visited last year too. Villagers would be allowed to go in when there used to be a satsang. But we would be driven out after an hour,” said Sandip Jadhav, a resident of Kalote village where the premise is located.
There has, however, been no complaint against the ashram from locals, the police said.
A platoon of Riot Control Police and local police personnel have been deployed at the ashram since August 24. “Required deployment was put up there as there has been animosity in different sects and we feared an attack on the ashram from members of the other sect,” said Anil Paraskar, superintendent of police, Raigad.
“There are around 22 sewaks (followers) inside the ashram and who keep coming and going and offer sewa,” Mr Paraskar added.
Officials said only three of the sewaks were present inside the ashram now. The security cover will continue till the property is sealed after receival of the court order, which sought for attachment of all properties belonging to Ram Rahim.