Thursday, 04 June, 2020

Killed in Protest After Indian Court Convicts Guru of Rape

Violence by Dera followers Killed in Protest After Indian Court Convicts Guru of Rape
Christy Curtis | 28 August, 2017, 00:36

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of a social welfare and spiritual group, was found guilty of raping two followers in a case dating back to 2002 at the headquarters of his Dera Sacha Sauda group in the northern town of Sirsa.

About 100,000 of his followers belonging to his Dera Sacha Sauda sect camped overnight in parks, on the streets and plazas of Panchkula, a quiet residential suburb of Chandigarh, the common capital of Haryana and Punjab states.

As Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, a flamboyant self-proclaimed guru, made his way to a court in India's northern Haryana state on the morning of August 25, some news channels ran live coverage of the 200-car cavalcade, that included several black SUVs, as it made its almost 250km journey from Sirsa to Panchkula in Haryana.

"The toll within the state is at least 30 dead and around 200 injured including about 50 police and security personnel", said Sandhu. Although the curfew was lifted in Panchkula Saturday, restrictions on public assembly remained in place.

Thousands of army, police and paramilitary forces were deployed. "The situation is tense but under control", said the source who requested anonymity. Smoke could be seen rising in another part of town.

Past year a Haryana minister announced the state would donate 5 million Indian rupees ($78,000) to Singh's Dera to promote sports.

Singh will be sent to a jail in the town of Rohtak until his sentence is announced on Monday, a prosecution lawyer said.

Rape in India carries a minimum sentence of seven years.

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Deadly violence triggered in the state on Friday afternoon immediately after a local court convicted Singh for committing rape of its two women followers in 2002.

"We have always respected the law", he said, asking his followers to maintain peace.

Ram Rahim Singh has a vast following in Haryana, where he runs a spiritual movement that claims to have millions of devotees around the world.

Prominent news groups in Pakistan used agency stories to report about the violence.

Indian godmen can summon thousands of supporters on to the streets at the drop of a hat.

In 2014, six people were killed when followers of another religious leader, the guru Rampal, fought pitched battles with police who were attempting to arrest him after he repeatedly failed to appear in court in connection with a murder trial.

Images broadcast by television channels showed security forces heavily armed forces taking up position around the headquarters of the guru.

In a televised appeal on Thursday, Ram Rahim Singh had asked his supporters not to resort to violence, but some said they would not tolerate a ruling that went against their leader. He termed the castration as a process to get "closer to god". The guru has featured in pop music videos, as well as in his own action films, where he can be seen fending off villains and flinging burning motorbikes into the air.

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