Aug. 25 (UPI) — Dozens of people died Friday in clashes with police in northern India, after a controversial guru was convicted of raping two of his worshipers.
At least 28 were killed and 250 injured in clashes with security forces — and over 1,000 people in the city of Panchulka, where the trial occurred, were arrested for arson and other crimes, The Telegraph reported.
Tens of thousands of followers of the man who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan gathered near a courthouse in Panchkula after a court ruling was handed down Friday. The members of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect rioted, burned vehicles and government offices, attacked journalists and fought an estimated 6,000 police officers brought into the city prior to the reading of the verdict.
Singh, nicknamed the “guru in bling” for his lavish appearance, was convicted of rape and criminal intimidation of two female followers in a 15-year-old case. He denied the charges. His sentence will be announced on Aug. 28.
Singh’s followers had been arriving in Panchkula for days to await the verdict.
Security was increased throughout Haryana state, which includes Panchkula, police said. Security was also heightened in the capital of New Delhi, 150 miles away.
While the majority of the violence occurred in Panchkula, it also spread to neighboring Punjab and Himachel states and the city of New Delhi.
India has many gurus who say they have mystical powers, but Singh has been linked to controversy. He was tried for conspiracy to murder a journalist in 2002, and in 2015 reportedly advocated that 400 of his followers undergo castration to get closer to God.