Deadly clashes after Indian court convicts guru of rape
NEW DELHI. – At least four people were killed yesterday when clashes broke out in northern India after a court convicted a controversial religious leader of raping two of his followers, sparking fury among tens of thousands of supporters who had gathered to await the verdict.
Authorities rushed 600 troops to the northern Indian city of Panchkula, where an AFP reporter saw police fire tear gas and water cannon into crowds of protesters who threw stones and attacked two television vans, breaking their windows and overturning one.
More than 100 000 followers of guru Ram Rahim Singh were estimated to have gone to the city in Haryana state, where India’s federal investigations agency had set up a special court to rule on the charge that he had raped two female devotees.
“There are four fatalities and some injuries,” a senior police officer told AFP by phone from Panchkula.
“We are trying to bring the situation under control,” said the officer, who asked not to be named.
Singh has a vast following in Haryana, where he runs a spiritual movement that claims to have millions of devotees around the world. Authorities imposed an indefinite curfew in Panchkula, where mobile internet services had earlier been cut off and troops deployed ahead of the verdict.
As news of Singh’s conviction spread, police in the neighbouring state of Punjab said a mob had set fire to a train station in Mukhtar district.
“A large mob has set a train station on fire in Malout town. We have rushed forces and fire services to the spot,” local police chief Sushil Kumar told AFP by phone as Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed for calm.
Media reports said Singh had been taken into custody under military escort. He will be sentenced on August 28.
“The court convicted Baba Ram Rahim Singh on rape charges,” prosecutor Harinder Pal Singh Verma told AFP by telephone after the closed hearing.
The 50-year-old self-styled “godman” is known as the “guru in bling” for his penchant for bejewelled costumes, although the source of his apparently vast wealth is unclear. – AFP.