The CBI convinced 18 women to give evidence against the Dera chief but only two deposed against him in court, leading to his conviction.

“He was present in the courtroom when I deposed against him in 2009. I was not scared of him then nor am I am today,” said the woman, whose statement led to the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

The woman, who is in her early 40s, spoke to The Hinduover her relative’s phone on Monday, as she continues to live under police protection since 2002, the year the Punjab and Haryana High Court took cognisance of an anonymous letter and directed the CBI to investigate the allegations of rape and sexual assault in it.

The CBI convinced 18 women to give evidence against the Dera chief but only two deposed against him in court, leading to his conviction. “I got justice today,” the woman said. Police enhanced her security from August 24 onwards, a day before the Dera chief was convicted by a CBI court.

A close relative of the woman said she was sexually assaulted when she was studying at a college run inside the Sirsa headquarters of Dera Sacha Sauda. He said the woman is married now and has two children. The woman’s elder brother was also an ardent follower of the Dera chief.

“He was murdered in 2002 at the behest of Ram Rahim Singh. The godman suspected the brother of having sent the anonymous letter, which led to registration of a case against him. The brother had become aware of the wrongdoings with his sister,” said the relative.

The CBI is also investigating the murder case and the final hearings are to begin on September 16.

The relative said that though they come from a conservative social fabric, the entire clan stood by her.

The woman’s father, who died last year. had accompanied her when she went to court to record her statement in front of the judge in 2009. “That was the only time she went to court. Rest of the hearings were attended by her father. The Dera chief’s guards used to come to court with weapons. We were threatened, enticed and pressured to not pursue the case. The Dera management said they were ready to pay any amount quoted by us,” the relative said.

He said the woman was determined to get justice and was glued to the TV set since morning. Belonging to a family of agriculturists, she was married to a farmer soon after she returned from the Dear headquarters.

“We got to know from lawyers that Ram Rahim started crying and begging for the court’s mercy when he heard that he had been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Commandos had to drag him away outside the court as he refused to leave,” the relative said.

He said had it not been for her, the other complainant, a Sadhvi, who wrote the anonymous letter wouldn’t have come to court. “She was the first one to depose and after her the sadhvi mustered courage to tell the court the atrocities done by Ram Rahim. She has created history, she should be rewarded by the government,” the relative said.