28 killed in violent protests over Indian guru’s rape conviction

At least 28 people were killed and over 250 injured Friday after violence erupted in northern Indian state of Haryana following conviction of self-styled godman and spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a rape case, local media reported.

“Officials say 28 dead, 250 injured in Panchkula violence in Haryana,” India’s semi-official news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) said.

Authorities have deployed army to contain the volatile situation.

The followers of Singh attacked journalists and set vehicles, buildings and train coaches on fire at several places.

A man lifts a motorbike in a vandalized area by Dera Sacha Sauda sect members in Panchkula, India.

The skyline of Panchkula district near Chandigarh, the capital city of Punjab and Haryana, was covered in thick smoke.

Officials said police fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse the supporters of Singh, who had been gathering in Panchkula over the past three days and went on rampage following arrest of their leader.

Despite authorities having deployed thousands of police and paramilitary troopers, the followers resorted to violence in Haryana, Punjab and New Delhi.

The rioters have torched at least two railway stations, a power grid and petrol pumps in Haryana. In Delhi, a train has been set on fire in Anand Vihar and two buses have also been torched.

A local court said in its verdict on Friday that Singh was guilty of raping his two women followers in 2002. Singh was arrest from the court and the sentence will be pronounced on Monday.

Authorities have cordoned off Singh’s sprawling headquarters on the outskirts of Sirsa town in Haryana.

The 50-year-old Singh heads a religious sect locally called Dera Sacha Sauda. The sect claims to be a “social welfare and spiritual organization.”

Singh, the flamboyant and controversial chief, claims to have 50 million followers and runs a spiritual empire. In his movies “MSG: The Messenger of God” and “MSG2”, Singh wears dazzling costumes, rides motorcycle, and is seen sending villains flying.

Fearing mobilization of crowds and rumourmongering, authorities have snapped internet in Haryana and Punjab, reports said.

A high alert has been sounded in Punjab, Haryana and New Delhi.