U.S. Court Stops Deportation of Man Afraid of Persecution From Dera Sacha Sauda

The Sikh man relocated to California in 2011 after he said he was “harmed” by the religious sect twice.


A court in San Francisco, California, stopped the deportation of an Indian Sikh man since he was afraid of persecution from the controversial Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) group in India.

Harbans Singh, a Khalsa Sikh, left India in 2011 and currently resides in Solano County in California. He had applied for political asylum, saying that the members of the Indian religious group were targeting him for not joining the group.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling said on Nov. 13 that earlier the Immigration Judge “improperly denied Singh’s claim on the basis that his attackers were motivated by extorting Singh’s land and recruiting additional adherents for the DSS religion.” It added: “It appears from the record that the DSS attackers were at least partly motivated by Singh’s religion and political affiliation, particularly because Singh’s refusal to join the DSS was inherently an act of religious expression.”

Singh petitioned for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ denial of his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). Though the court found that he was not tortured and the pressure he faced from DSS was for grabbing his land and for his religious and political beliefs, it said that the fear of recruitment and extortion satisfied his claim.

If the immigration court is unable to find that Singh could safely relocate to another place in India, he could be granted political asylum, following which he can apply for legal residency, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

To seek political asylum, an applicant “must establish past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution that has a nexus to one of five protected grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Singh was reportedly “harmed” by the DSS group on two separate occasions.

The leader of the DSS is Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who has been jailed in India after being convicted of rape. He is also accused of murder. He is serving a 20-year jail term.

A special investigation team found 600 buried skeletons in the campus of the Rahim-led group in Haryana. The human remains were said to be of those who believed that being buried inside the compound would give them salvation. However, some believe that the remains were of those who knew about the malpractices inside the Sirsa branch of the sect in Haryana.

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