36 dead in India after the conviction of a guru for rape


Followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect were there to support its chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, known as India's "rock-star baba" and the "guru of bling" for his garish rhinestone-studded costumes and on-screen performances.

Ram Rahim Singh attends the premiere of a movie in New Delhi in May. Media vehicles were vandalized by Dera supporters, some OB vans were set ablaze.

Speaking outside a hospital Panchkula, Manohar Lal Khattar - chief minister of Haryana, where the town is located - said 29 people had died and 200 others had been injured.

Panchkula administrators had feared a guilty verdict would trigger violence among the tens of thousands of followers who had camped overnight awaiting the verdict.

By Friday, there were so many people on the streets of Panchkula, that a sports stadium was prepared as a mass jail for arrested protesters.

A curfew was imposed in at least four districts of Punjab, said Amrinder Singh, the state's chief minister.

"Followers of the flashy self-styled religious leader warned that his legal day of reckoning would be bloody", NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from New Delhi.

"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", he said in his monthly radio address, without directly mentioning the recent violence.

"Urged officials to work round the clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required", Modi wrote.

"The sentencing will either be done through video conferencing or, if required, the court will be held there (Rohtak prison)", he said, adding that the judge (Jagdeep Singh) will be taken to Rohtak.

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It led to huge stockpiles of rice and damaged the country's rice exports, leading to allegations of corruption and wasted money. Opposition leaders were furious, suggesting that the proposal was actually created to help Yingluck's brother and his allies.

With court to pronounce the quantum of punishment to Singh on Monday, police said necessary security arrangements have been made to prevent recurring of violence.

Singh's followers went on rampage burning vehicles, train coaches, petrol stations etc.

The case was tried in a special court run by India's top agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation.

And as The Hindu reports, Ram Rahim Singh "also faces allegations of two murders, including that of a journalist, and had also courted controversy for dressing up as Guru Gobind Singh in 2007 leading to widespread protests in Punjab".

Singh commands a following that he claims is in the millions.

"The situation is tense but under control".

The Dera Sacha Sauda was founded in 1948, and the guitar-playing, motorcycle-riding Ram Rahim took over as its leader in 1990, at the age of 23.

The man himself describes his following as a social welfare and spiritual organisation, while others refer to it as a religious sect.

In 2015 he started a film franchise portraying him as MSG or the "Messenger of God", performing miracles, preaching to thousands and beating up gangsters while singing and dancing.