30 dead in India violence after Dera chief rape verdict


30 dead in India violence after Dera chief rape verdict

Indian PM condemns violence; spiritual guru's sect calls for peace

By Reuters

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Published: Fri 25 Aug 2017, 1:38 PM

Last updated: Sat 26 Aug 2017, 9:40 AM

Violent protests erupted in India on Friday, killing at least 30 people, after a court convicted a self-styled guru of raping two women, angering thousands of his supporters who said he was innocent, police and officials said.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of a social welfare and spiritual group, was found guilty of raping two followers in a case dating back to 2002 at the headquarters of his Dera Sacha Sauda sect in the northern town of Sirsa.
Supporters rampaged in response, attacking railway stations, petrol stations and television vans in towns across the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, witnesses said.
At least 30 people were killed, all but one in Panchkula town where the court returned its verdict on Singh, the chief secretary of Haryana Ram Niwas said. More than 200 people were injured in the two states.
Dozens of cars were burning in Panchkula town while a bloodied body lay in the middle of a road. About 500 army soldiers were deployed to restore order.
"The situation is coming under control," federal home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said in New Delhi.
Television footage showed frantic scenes outside a hospital in Panchkula, with medical staff hurriedly transferring injured patients from ambulances on to wheelchairs and stretchers. Smoke could be seen rising in another part of town.
Singh commands a following that he claims is in the millions, many of them elderly men and women in the countryside, drawn by his social welfare programmes such as medical camps and disaster relief.
The court, which held him guilty of rape, set his sentencing for Monday when there could be more protests. He faces a minimum of seven years in prison.
Singh, who has scripted and starred in his own films, has denied the charges.
He had called on his followers through a video message to remain peaceful.

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