26 August 2017

Calm returns after 30 die in India riots over guru verdict

A man lifts a motorbike in a vandalized area by Dera Sacha Sauda sect members in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in a north Indian town after a court convicted a guru of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.
Security forces on Saturday patrolled the streets of a north Indian state where rampaging mobs left at least 30 people dead and more than 250 others injured, after a court declared a quasi-religious sect leader guilty of raping two of his followers.

Authorities lifted the curfew in the town of Panchkula, the main trouble spot, after the night passed relatively peacefully and the area was cleared of protesters, said police officer Pradeep Kumar.

On Friday, mobs set fire to government buildings and attacked police and TV journalists in the town, smashing the windshields of news vans and breaking broadcast equipment.

Police initially used tear gas and water cannons and then fired bullets in the air in an attempt to control the surging mobs as they vandalized bus stations and government vehicles.

Haryana state police chief B S Sandhu said 28 people died, six of them due to bullet wounds, and more than 250 others were injured. More than 1,000 of the guru’s supporters were detained in on charges of arson and destruction of public property, he said.

The Press Trust of India news agency said another two people were killed in the town of Sirsa, where the headquarters of the sect is located.

The special court announced the guilty verdict after hearing closing arguments in the 15-year-old case against the guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan.
Policemen patrol past a vehicle vandalized by Dera Sacha Sauda sect members near in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in a north Indian town after a court convicted the sect’s guru of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.


The guru, who had denied the charges of raping the two women at his ashram in 2002, was flown by helicopter to a jail in the nearby town of Rohtak because district officials feared they would be overrun by his supporters. His sentence will be announced Monday.

Violence also broke out elsewhere in Haryana and the neighboring state of Punjab, as well as in the capital, New Delhi, police said. Railway stations in the towns of Malout and Balluana were ablaze, and two coaches of an empty train parked in New Delhi’s Anand Vihar station were set on fire.

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

A spokesman for the guru’s sect, Dera Sacha Sauda, urged his supporters to remain calm.

“I just want to request everyone to maintain peace at the moment,” said Dilawar Insan. “We will explore what legal options are available to us.”

The sect claims to have about 50 million followers and campaigns for vegetarianism and against drug addiction. It has also taken up social causes such as organizing the weddings of poor couples. Such sects have huge followings in India. It’s not unusual for their leaders to have small, heavily armed private militias protecting them.

Clashes in 2007 between Dera Sacha Sauda followers and members of the Sikh faith left at least three people dead in north India.

In 2014, six people were killed when followers of another religious leader, guru Rampal, fought pitched battles with police who were attempting to arrest him after he repeatedly failed to appear in court in connection with a murder trial.
Security officers carry the limp body of a man after Dera Sacha Sauda sect members went on a rampage near a court in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in the northern Indian town after a court convicted the sect’s guru of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.


In a televised appeal on Thursday, Ram Rahim Singh asked his supporters not to resort to violence, but some said they would not tolerate a verdict that went against their leader.

“I consider guru-ji to be only next to God,” farmer Malkit Singh said as he squatted on the ground in a park, saying Ram Rahim Singh had cured him of a decadelong addiction to drugs.

“There is a God above,” he said. “Our guru-ji follows the path of truth.”

(AP)
In this May 17, 2017 file photo, an Indian spiritual guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, attends the premiere of the movie ‘Jattu Engineer’ in New Delhi, India. A north Indian court on Friday, Aug. 25, convicted the flamboyant leader of a quasi-religious sect of raping two of his followers, prompting thousands of supporters camped out near the courthouse to shout angry protests.
In this May 17, 2017 file photo, an Indian spiritual guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, attends the premiere of the movie ‘Jattu Engineer’ in New Delhi, India. A north Indian court on Friday, Aug. 25, convicted the flamboyant leader of a quasi-religious sect of raping two of his followers, prompting thousands of supporters camped out near the courthouse to shout angry protests.                                                
People stand near vandalized train coaches in New Delhi, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Mobs rampaged across the north Indian town of Panchkula on Friday after a court declared a quasi-religious sect leader guilty of raping two of his followers. Two coaches of an empty train parked in New Delhi’s Anand Vihar station were also set on fire.
People stand near vandalized train coaches in New Delhi, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Mobs rampaged across the north Indian town of Panchkula on Friday after a court declared a quasi-religious sect leader guilty of raping two of his followers. Two coaches of an empty train parked in New Delhi’s Anand Vihar station were also set on fire.                        
Supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect attack a member of the media, foreground wearing a blue dark t-shirt, in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Police used water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowd. More than 15,000 paramilitary troops and police officers, some on horseback, were deployed in the town of Panchkula.
Supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect attack a member of the media, foreground wearing a blue dark t-shirt, in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Police used water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowd. More than 15,000 paramilitary troops and police officers, some on horseback, were deployed in the town of Panchkula.
A Dera Sacha Sauda sect supporter braves water cannon used by Indian security forces to disperse violent supporters near a court in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in the north Indian town after a court convicted their guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan, of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.
A Dera Sacha Sauda sect supporter braves water cannon used by Indian security forces to disperse violent supporters near a court in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in the north Indian town after a court convicted their guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan, of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.
A fire brigade truck burnt by Dera Sacha Sauda sect members lies near Panchkula’s court house, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in a north Indian town after a court convicted a guru of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.
A fire brigade truck burnt by Dera Sacha Sauda sect members lies near Panchkula’s court house, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in a north Indian town after a court convicted a guru of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.                                
In this image made from video, supporters of an Indian guru who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan react after his verdict was announced in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. A north Indian court convicted the flamboyant leader of a quasi-religious sect of raping two of his followers, prompting thousands of supporters to shout angry protests and attack journalists covering Friday’s verdict.
In this image made from video, supporters of an Indian guru who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan react after his verdict was announced in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. A north Indian court convicted the flamboyant leader of a quasi-religious sect of raping two of his followers, prompting thousands of supporters to shout angry protests and attack journalists covering Friday’s verdict.                   
Supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect attack a member of the media, foreground wearing a blue dark t-shirt, in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Police used water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowd. More than 15,000 paramilitary troops and police officers, some on horseback, were deployed in the town of Panchkula.
Supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect attack a member of the media, foreground wearing a blue dark t-shirt, in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Police used water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowd. More than 15,000 paramilitary troops and police officers, some on horseback, were deployed in the town of Panchkula.                                 
Vehicles set alight by Dera Sacha Sauda sect members burn in the streets of Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in a north Indian town after a court convicted a guru of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.
Vehicles set alight by Dera Sacha Sauda sect members burn in the streets of Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in a north Indian town after a court convicted a guru of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.
An Indian policeman puts on a bullet proof vest as he joins others on a road leading to a court in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Several north Indian cities were under a security lock down Friday as a court was expected to issue a verdict in a rape case involving a man who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, the flamboyant leader of a quasi-religious sect.
An Indian policeman puts on a bullet proof vest as he joins others on a road leading to a court in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Several north Indian cities were under a security lock down Friday as a court was expected to issue a verdict in a rape case involving a man who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, the flamboyant leader of a quasi-religious sect.
Dera Sacha Sauda sect members overturn an OB van on the streets of Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in a north Indian town after a court convicted their guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan, of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.
Dera Sacha Sauda sect members overturn an OB van on the streets of Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Deadly riots have broken out in a north Indian town after a court convicted their guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan, of raping two of his followers. Mobs also attacked journalists and set fire to government buildings and railway stations.              
In this image made from video, supporters of an Indian guru who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan walk on the street as they react after his verdict was announced in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. A north Indian court convicted the flamboyant leader of a quasi-religious sect of raping two of his followers, prompting thousands of supporters to shout angry protests and attack journalists covering Friday’s verdict.
In this image made from video, supporters of an Indian guru who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan walk on the street as they react after his verdict was announced in Panchkula, India, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. A north Indian court convicted the flamboyant leader of a quasi-religious sect of raping two of his followers, prompting thousands of supporters to shout angry protests and attack journalists covering Friday’s verdict.
In this Wednesday, Oct. 5, file 2016 photo, Indian spiritual guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, arrives for a press conference ahead of the release of his new film “MSG, The Warrior Lion Heart,” in New Delhi, India. Several cities in north India were under a security lock down Thursday ahead of a verdict in a rape trial involving the controversial and hugely popular spiritual leader.
In this Wednesday, Oct. 5, file 2016 photo, Indian spiritual guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, arrives for a press conference ahead of the release of his new film “MSG, The Warrior Lion Heart,” in New Delhi, India. Several cities in north India were under a security lock down Thursday ahead of a verdict in a rape trial involving the controversial and hugely popular spiritual leader.
In this Oct. 5, 2016 file photo, Indian spiritual guru who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, center, greets followers as he arrives for a press conference ahead of the release of his new movie “MSG, The Warrior Lion Heart,” in New Delhi, India. Several cities in north India were under a security lock down Thursday ahead of a verdict in a rape trial involving a controversial and hugely popular spiritual leader.
In this Oct. 5, 2016 file photo, Indian spiritual guru who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, center, greets followers as he arrives for a press conference ahead of the release of his new movie “MSG, The Warrior Lion Heart,” in New Delhi, India. Several cities in north India were under a security lock down Thursday ahead of a verdict in a rape trial involving a controversial and hugely popular spiritual leader.

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