Cops battle angry fans to get to ‘godman’
NEW DELHI: A self-styled Indian religious leader was yesterday charged with sedition and waging war against the state after a daylong siege of his sprawling compound ended in his arrest along with 450 hard-core followers.
Police evacuated more than 10 000 followers on Wednesday from the fortified compound of a bizarre cult headed by “godman” Satguru Rampalji Maharaj before capturing him late in the evening.
Rampal, as the 63-year-old former engineer is known to his followers, was shown in television news footage gripping the bars of a holding cell. He had been wanted for ignoring more than 40 court summonses in connection with a murder case.
“I am innocent,” Rampal told reporters as he was brought out, handcuffed, from a court in the north-western city of Chandigarh. “All allegations against me are false.”
Police used teargas, water cannons and bulldozers to storm Rampal’s 5 hectare base on Wednesday, breaching resistance from a human chain of supporters outside, and men throwing stones and acid from its roof.
Officials said the bodies of five women and an infant had been found. There were no bullet marks or injuries on the bodies, which were sent for post-mortems.
Tension rose last week after a judge ordered Rampal’s arrest over a 2006 murder case, in which he is accused of telling supporters to open fire on villagers, killing one and injuring six.
Rampal heads a sect that worships the 15th-century poet and mystic Kabir, known for a message of tolerance that is followed by people of varied faiths. – Reuters
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