In January 1996, Hansraj moved to the Dera headquarters in Sirsa.
The same year, in the presence of his family and a few other sadhus of the Dera, Gurmeet Ram Rahim formally ordained him as a sadhu after administering two pieces of sweet to him. He was assigned to be a part of the Shahi Bhajan Mandali.
With his natural flair for music, Hansraj soon became a popular bhajan singer at the Dera. He started strumming a guitar and with regular practice, became good at playing it. Soon, Hansraj was made the head of sound system management at the Dera.
‘In 1999, some other sadhus and I came to know of an experiment of castration on a horse at the Dera. The animal died after three months.’ Hansraj said this was the first time he had heard about castration. He heard that the chief had decided to conduct the same experiment on humans. Initially, a member of the senior management staff known to be close to Gurmeet was made to undergo the operation. In late 1999, the chief called a meeting of 500 sadhus at the Dera headquarters. These sadhus were part of Dera Sacha Sauda’s Saint Brahmachari Sevadar group.
During that meeting, the sadhus were told that they had to go through a minor surgery which would bring them ‘directly in touch with God’. Gurmeet Ram Rahim explained that this surgery would take away all their worldly worries and bring them a step closer to heaven. The sadhus were then introduced to two doctors— Dr Pankaj Garg and Dr M.P. Singh. Gurmeet said that these two doctors were trained in the ‘special surgery’ and added that it would be painless.
After the meeting, Gurmeet met the sadhus one-on-one. ‘Those who agreed to go through the surgery at that time did not exactly know what it was all about. They were treated royally that day,’ Hansraj recalls. Those who refused to comply were humiliated and abused by Gurmeet. Some were even sent to the torture room and beaten up for days.
To begin with, two sadhus, Ratan and Dharam Singh, who was also the personal cook for the Dera chief, underwent the surgery. Makeshift arrangements were made inside the gufa and the doctors mentioned by the Dera chief in the meeting conducted the surgery. Mohan Singh Diwana, Mittu Singh and Gurjant Singh, three close aides of Gurmeet, were the next ones on whom the surgery was performed.
These sadhus were strictly told not to reveal to other sadhus that they had been castrated. Gurmeet told them to propagate among others that after the surgery, they could see God and felt close to Him. They were to tell the other sadhus that the surgery had led their mind to a higher realm of spirituality and they could now communicate directly with the Supreme Power because of their enhanced powers of concentration. At the chief’s directions, the castrated sadhus conducted meetings with eighteen to twenty young sadhus on a regular basis in an attempt to brainwash them and make them believe that the surgery would miraculously transform their lives.
In October 2000, Hansraj was travelling with Gurmeet Ram Rahim to his hometown in Gurusar Modia in Rajasthan. ‘I was a bhajan singer, so Gurmeet used to take me along to his hometown every time he visited, to perform bhajans.’
On the way, Gurmeet told him, ‘Tum par rehmat ho gayi hai’ (You have been blessed), and that soon, Hansraj would have a vision of God. ‘Little did I know that this trip would ruin my entire life.’ Hansraj was then seventeen years old, and completely unaware of the trap he was falling into.
Dera Sacha Sauda runs a hospital at Gurusar Modia, Gurmeet Singh’s village in Sri Ganganagar district. According to Hansraj, most of the initial castrations were done at this hospital. He said that the Dera chief asked him to go to the hospital and meet Dr Garg and Dr Singh, and say to them, ‘Mujh par rehmat ho gayi.’ (I have been blessed.)
When he went to the hospital that evening and told the doctors exactly what the Dera chief had asked him to, they smiled and offered him a cold drink. ‘Even before I could finish half the bottle, my head started spinning and I began to hallucinate. Soon, I fell unconscious, to wake up three days later.’
His ordeal had only just begun.
On regaining consciousness, he found his private parts bandaged. ‘I was in immense pain. I cried out and was given painkiller injections,’ he said, recalling the horror. In the evening, when the dressing was changed, he realized that his testicles had been removed. ‘Out of fear, dejection and pain, I urinated on the bed itself,’ he said, tears welling in his eyes while recounting that day. He wanted to die. His belief in the Dera and its chief was shattered. He felt betrayed.
‘Where to run away, whom to tell what has happened to me, how will I live the rest of my life—these were some of the questions running through my mind.’
He confronted the doctors who operated on him, only to be told that he was ‘chosen’—he had been specially ordained by ‘God’ Gurmeet himself, and should have no reason to complain, nor should he tell anyone at the Dera.
‘I refused to eat anything. I was just crying and thinking of my parents. After some time, I fell unconscious again.’
Even seventeen years after the surgery, Hansraj says that the pain refuses to go. ‘Sometimes it hurts so much, it feels as if hundreds of scorpions are biting me at the same time.’
Hansraj was discharged from the hospital the next day and sent to Sirsa. There, many sadhus his age asked him the reason for his despondency, but he kept it to himself. There were two reasons for that—he feared for his life, but perhaps the greater one was that he felt ashamed. Soon after he returned, another sadhu his age was summoned by the Dera chief. ‘Uspar bhee rehmat ho gayi.’ (He too was blessed.) That sadhu, also a minor, was sent to the same hospital in Gurusar Modia. ‘When he came back, he was seething with pain. His operation seemed to have gone wrong and there were blood stains on his pyjamas.’
This pattern of selecting young boys and sending them to be castrated continued for a long time. Hansraj said that from his group alone, more than twenty minors were sent for the surgery. With the number of castration cases increasing in number, keeping it secret became difficult. Soon, most of the sadhus at the Dera became aware of it. Some tried to flee to avoid it. Those who were caught trying to escape were beaten up and put in the torture room for days.
Excerpted with permission from “Dera Sacha Sauda and Gurmeet Ram Rahim: A Decade-Long Investigation” by Anurag Tripathi, published by Penguin India.