28 dead after Indian court finds 'Guru of Bling' guilty

29 August, 2017, 01:07 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Indian court sentences self-styled 'Godman' to 10 years for rape

The victims are believed to be Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's followers.

"Our father can never do any sin", said devotee Trilok Insaan at a shop in Sirsa adorned with posters of a heavily-bearded Singh.

Singh's Dera Sacha Sauda sec, which claims to have 50 million followers, campaigns for vegetarianism and against drug addiction - while it also champions social causes. According to the Business Standard, Singh is a hugely influential person who has strong dominance over politicians in the Indian states of Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab.

A judge will travel to the prison in Rohtak town where the bling-loving guru, who calls himself Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Ji Insan, has been held since being convicted Friday. More than a lakh of Ram Rahim's followers had been camping out there for the last four days.

Singh, 50, had arrived at court in Panchkula in a convoy of more than 100 vehicles.

Gurus play an important part in the lives of many Indians but none has the reach of Singh who is regarded as one of the most powerful men in India outside the political mainstream.

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Experts also attribute the rise of the spiritual guru to the failure of the government of India, particularly in Punjab and Haryana, to make available to masses affordable healthcare and education even after 70 years of independence.

Army and paramilitary soldiers were deployed across Panchkula as police put the northern town on a security lockdown for fear that a guilty verdict could spark violence.

Reuters and other media had earlier quoted government officials and lawyers as saying that the twin sentencing would run concurrently for 10 years.

In 2002, an anonymous mail was sent to the former indian Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in which a woman accused the guru of rape. He also stood trial for conspiracy over the murder of a journalist in 2002.

However, he promised to go to court to be present for the verdict.

Police said at least 36 people were killed as tens of thousands of followers went on an angry rampage, attacking television vans and setting fire to dozens of vehicles.

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The protests started on Friday and the stand-off between the enraged devotees and police ended on Sunday.

A high alert has been sounded in Punjab, Haryana and New Delhi. "Violence is not acceptable in the nation, in any form", he said in Hindi.

"I want to assure my countrymen that people who take the law into their own hands and are on the path of violent suppression - whether it is a person or a group - neither this country nor any government will tolerate it", Modi said in his monthly radio address, adding that the guilty would unquestionably be punished.

India has been rocked by numerous scandals involving popular ascetics claiming to possess mystical powers.

Singh is also under investigation over allegations that he convinced 400 of his male followers to undergo castration.

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