26 August 2017

Despite crime allegations, gurus in India hold sway

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.
A flamboyant and hugely popular spiritual guru who was convicted of rape, triggering a deadly rampage by angry supporters, is not the only Indian sect leader to find himself on the wrong side of the law.

Like the guru who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan, tens of thousands of others run religious empires across the 1.3 billion-strong deeply spiritual country. A look at some of them:

Indian guru convicted of rape revered by millions

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.
The millions of followers of the flashy Indian guru consider him the embodiment of God on Earth.

So when he was convicted of rape Friday, tens of thousands of supporters responded with fury, setting off riots that left more than two dozen dead and buses, trains and buildings set on fire. Police said calm was restored on Saturday.

When he appears in a “darshan,” or audience, once a week at his ashram in Haryana state’s Sirsa town, the guru of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan, makes his followers weep and clap and flatten themselves to the ground at the sight of him. The sect claims as many as 50 million followers.

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.