Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the chief of Dera Sacha Sauda, has been convicted of rape, 15 years after one of his victims first wrote to then prime minister about the crimes committed against her.

That same year, as Gujarat burned, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called on Chief Minister Narendra Modi to fulfill his “Raj Dharma” – to be even-handed in protecting all citizens of his state.

Vajpayee’s words came too late. And in the years since, what has become abundantly clear is that Modi does not follow the Raj Dharma of a head of government in an electoral democracy.

With Singh’s conviction, the prime minister’s Raj Dharma would be to speak out loudly and clearly in support of the women who had waged a lonely struggle for justice against a powerful man – a man whose blessings even he had sought and received. His Raj Dharma would be to affirm that rape should attract the sternest opprobrium, that India’s women could expect the protection of the law even against the powerful.

The prime minister, however, said nothing – nothing of note anyway. In a pro forma tweet he condemned the violence.

His party – its women ministers and spokespersons included – have like him either remained silent about the rape conviction, or said that the court did wrong by taking into consideration the evidence of two women and not the feelings of the Dera’s supporters.

In 2014, Modi, in his bid to become prime minister, had said loudly and clearly that he had sought and received the blessings of the Dera chief, then already charged with rape. Putting a generous spin on it, one might say Modi had not erred then as a man is innocent until held guilty by a court.


But the court has ruled that the man stands convicted as charged. And the prime minister has remained silent. He has also endorsed Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar (also Haryana’s home minister), who, by allowing the Dera to mass its supporters in Panchkula, sent out the message that conviction for rape was nothing against the power of the people that the rapist can bring out on to the street.

The two nameless brave women who stayed the course in what was a near-impossible fight for justice must today be fearful for their lives. The government of the state they live in let the mob supporting their rapist be unleashed; the prime minister gave that government his blessings.

From time to time, Modi condemns the use of violence. His banal statements, devoid of context or direct reference to specific crimes, speak of a man unwilling to call to account the politics that underpins mob violence.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court, in the context of the Dera-led violence, reminded the prime minister that he was the prime minister of the country and not just of the Bharatiya Janata Party. This is the Raj Dharma of which Prime Minister Vajpayee had reminded Chief Minister Modi. But Prime Minister Modi’s loud silences suggest these words continue to fall on deaf ears.