Deadly Violence Erupted In India After A Guru Was Convicted Of Raping His Followers

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At least 18 people have reportedly died in violence in northern India on Friday after a court in India found a popular guru guilty of raping two of his followers.

Tens of thousands of followers of the religious leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and his Dera Sacha Sauda sect descended into the town of Panchkula ahead of the verdict in the case.

Singh, 50, who claims to have tens of millions of followers, has been convicted of raping two women at the sect's headquarters in 2002. He will be sentenced on Aug. 28. A spokesman for Dera said “we have been wronged” in response to the verdict.

Money Sharma / AFP / Getty Images

Speaking to the Indian Express the day before the hearing, one of the complainants said they were hopeful justice would prevail: “We have heard it’s not easy to get justice in India, especially when the fight is against a powerful person. A person who has money can do anything here. But I have trust in this system now, there is a ray of hope.”

After the verdict was handed down, a number of Singh's supporters began rampaging through the town, vandalizing railway stations and media vans, BBC News reported. Journalists were also attacked during the clashes, according to the Hindustan Times.

Curfews have been put in place, and thousands of army, police and paramilitary officers have been deployed to the area. Violence has also been reported in other parts of Punjab and Haryana, as well as cases of arson in Delhi.

Followers of Ram Rahim Singh throw stones at security forces.

Money Sharma / AFP / Getty Images

Singh became the leader of Dera Sacha Sauda — a self-proclaimed “non-profit social welfare and spiritual organization” — at the age of 23.

Since then, he has gained a reputation as a controversial figure — he has performed in a rock concert, acted in movies, and earned the nicknames “rockstar baba” and “guru of bling” due to his colorful clothes.

Dera Sacha Sauda

Singh was investigated by the Indian police for murder and alleged rape in 2002, which he has denied. Singh has also been accused of forcing 400 of his followers to undergo castration in order to “get closer to God.”

Shortly after the case was filed against him in 2002, Ram Chander Chhatrapati, the journalist who exposed the rape allegations in a local daily that year, was shot dead outside of his home.



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