Anurag Tripathi’s Dera Sacha Sauda: An Exercise In Telling The Unvarnished Truth [#BookReview]

Dera Sacha Sauda by Anurag Tripathi is an expose of how organised patriarchy and crime cartels work hand in hand for exploitation of the gullible.

The very mention of the Dera Sachcha Sauda brings chills: that a man could hold onto so many years of committing crime after crime in the name of spirituality and being a man of god is undoubtedly disturbing, at the very least. And yet, the world may not have known about it, had ordinary people not found the courage to speak up, and had the sheer determination and grit of a journalist in chasing after the story had been absent.

Anurag Tripathi’s blow-by-blow account of his investigative efforts in bringing the story to light are presented in the book, Dera Sacha Sauda.

My lone grouse with the book remains the absence of a trigger warning. Considering that a lot of the book is detailed chronicles and testimonies of survivors of a range of different forms of sexual assault and violence (rape, castration, for instance), one wonders why the author or the publisher did not deem it fit to incorporate a trigger warning.

The book itself, though, is an exceptionally valuable essay of what we are up against in the machinations of patriarchy and organized crime cartels.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan was, for several, a god. He held that place in the lives of many out of one of two reasons: fear, and ignorance. Those that revered him in absolute innocence were those that were ignorant of his wrongdoings, and those that ‘revered’ despite knowing, were those that were swung into it through fear.

The Dera Sacha Sauda was a hub of all things sexual exploitation, forced castrations, private militias, illegal trade in arms and opium, and land grabs on an untold scale. It took August 2017 and his conviction for the world to split the case wide open and to see it for what it is. In building his journey as an investigator, Anurag Tripathi creates a stunning narrative: one that presents his journey as is, with the maturity or analytical bent of mind that hindsight lends to any articulation of the past.

In the aftermath of the case, much time and effort was spent in assessing the followers and the communities of believers who invested faith in the Dera Sacha Sauda and its chief. The assessments ranged from shaming and disrespect, to a comprehensive understanding of the intersectional dimensions that prop up one’s choices when there are very few choices to make.

Against this backdrop, Anurag Tripathi’s book is a comprehensive tool to understand the way social order, religion, spirituality and structural violence built into these aspects of life can come to victimize whole communities of people, and how this state can be retained unobstructed through the combination of power and a culture of silence.

Anurag Tripathi allows you, as a reader, to feel the fear, the frustration, the sheer shock and mind numbing overwhelm at each discovery. He narrates, but doesn’t analyze or proselytize, thereby retaining his journalist’s cap and presenting the facts for the reader to form an opinion.

You follow him on his journey that begins with an anonymous letter, and what follows in chase after chase after chase culminates in dovetailing narratives of lonely battles for justice against the godman and his once-strong, iron clad wall of power around him.

Barring the absence of the trigger warning, Tripathi’s work is a tome of peace journalism, in that it is dedicated to truth seeking, and in presenting the truth.

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Top image via Twitter and book cover via Amazon

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