19 killed in vi­o­lent protests in In­dia after court con­victs ‘god­man’ of rape

Global Times - Weekend - - WORLD -

Vi­o­lent protests erupted in In­dia on Fri­day, killing at least 19 peo­ple, after a court con­victed a self-styled “god­man” 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 group 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 19 peo­ple were killed, most of them in Panchkula town where the court re­turned its ver­dict on Singh, a fed­eral in­te­rior min­istry of­fi­cial said. More than 200 were wounded in the two states, he said.

Dozens of cars were burn­ing in Panchkula town while a body lay on a road­side. 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.

Protests also erupted in New Delhi and in the neigh­bor­ing state of Ra­jasthan. Sup­port­ers of the god­man set fire to some buses and two empty train coaches in the cap­i­tal.

Singh com­mands a fol­low­ing that he claims is in the mil­lions. Sup­port­ers started gath­er­ing in the streets out­side the court in Panchkula on Thurs­day.

“The court has con­victed Ram Rahim Singh of rape charges,” Ko­hal Dev Sharma, a lawyer at the court said. “Jus­tice has fi­nally pre­vailed.”

Singh, a burly, bearded man who has scripted and starred in his own films, de­nied the charges. He had called on his fol­low­ers through a video mes­sage to re­main peace­ful.

Singh’s sen­tence will be an­nounced later in the month, me­dia re­ported. Sharma said he faced a min­i­mum of seven years in prison.

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