Clashes over Indian guru’s rape conviction kill 28

PANCHKULA (AFP): At least 28 people were killed and dozens more wounded Friday when violent protests erupted over a court’s decision to convict a controversial Indian guru for raping two devotees, reported Geo News while citing Indian media sources.

Speaking to media news, Haryana journalist Sahil Miglani said that “about 20 casualties have been reported in Panchkula and one has been reported in Sirsa.”

The casualties occurred after paramilitary force and security agencies shelled tear gas and used water cannons against the followers of self-styled spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

An Indian court found Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of raping a woman follower, which led to his followers taking to streets in protest.

As the protesters turned violent, more than 40 trucks of paramilitary and security troops were deployed to prevent the situation from escalating.

Indian firemen douse a burned media vehicle during clashes between the controversial guru´s followers and security forces in Panchkula on August 25, 2017. Photo: AFP

“Currently, the situation is quite tense. But, the paramilitary force has brought things under control to a certain extent,” said Sahil, adding that “journalists are also being attacked.”

Moreover 1,000 Dera Sacha Sauda followers have been detained, according to ANI, which quoted Haryana ADGP {Law and Order) Muhammad Akil. In view of the violent protest, Section 144 was imposed in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat .

Rape convict

A female follower had accused Singh of repeatedly raping her inside the campus of Dera Sacha Sauda, Singh’s organisation, in Haryana in 1999. After hearing the case, a court found Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty.

Tens of thousands of followers of guru Ram Rahim Singh had descended on Panchkula, where India’s federal investigations agency had set up a special court to rule on the charge that he had raped two female devotees.

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

The Haryana government had earlier imposed a curfew in the town of Sirsa and ordered thousands of followers to home as he headed to court on Friday for a decision in a rape trial that had raised fears of mass unrest.

Media reports said Singh had been taken into custody under military escort. He will be sentenced on August 28.

Dera to challenge verdict: Indian media

The Times of India reported that the Dera Sacha Sauda has decided to challenge the “unjust” decision of the special CBI court.

In a statement in Hindi, signed by spokesperson Dilawar Insaan, the Dera also appealed for peace amid widespread violence that has already claimed 17 lives after the verdict was pronounced earlier today.

“This is unjust. We will appeal against the judgment,” the statement said, adding “Dera Sacha Sauda is dedicated to the betterment of humanity. We request all to maintain peace.”