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Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is currently serving a life term for the murder of his manager in 2002 and has also been convicted for the rape of two women in 2017, will walk out of Sunaria Jail in Haryana’s Rohtak district today (7 February).

However, this is for a limited period of only 21 days — after he was granted a furlough by the Haryana government’s jail administration.

A jail official confirmed the Dera chief’s release for the next three weeks, according to a report in the Hindustan Times.

According to an Indian Express report, the Dera Sacha Sauda chief will head to his organisation’s headquarters in Sirsa, following his release from prison.

Haryana’s power minister Ranjit Singh was quoted as saying that the state government had nothing to do with granting parole or furlough to a jail inmate. “It is the legal right of the convict, who becomes eligible to seek parole/furlough after he has completed three years of conviction. Like other inmates, Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s request application was also examined by the requisite committee that deals with such cases and his request was allowed,” said the minister.

This is not the first time that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh will be walking out of jail. In the past, he had been given emergency paroles, from sunrise to sunset, multiple times to meet his ailing mother.

The Dera Sacha Sauda head was sent to Sunaria Jail in Haryana after he was found guilty of murdering his manager, Ranjit Singh, in 2002. Ranjit Singh, a follower of Ram Rahim, was shot dead by four assailants on 10 July 2002, at his native village, Khanpur Kolian in Kurukshetra.

In 2017, he was also sentenced to 20 years in jail after he was found guilty of raping two female followers. The case had come to light when one of his female followers wrote an anonymous letter in 2002 to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, alleging that she was raped by her political guru. The letter also accused Singh of raping several of his female followers.

Interestingly, Ram Rahim’s furlough has been granted weeks before Punjab votes for a new government. It is reported that Dera followers and those of Rahim Singh have considerable sway in Punjab’s Malwa region, with their votes seen as key in deciding the outcome of parliamentary and legislative elections.

Punjab will vote for a new government in a single-phase poll on 20 February. The election had originally been scheduled for 14 February but was deferred after political parties requested the Election Commission to factor in Guru Ravidas Jayanti celebrations.

With inputs from agencies

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Abdul Gh Lone