Cops bat­tle angry fans to get to ‘god­man’

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

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

PIC­TURES: REUTERS

REP­U­TA­TION IN TAT­TERS: Ma­jor US net­works have de­cided to can Bill Cosby’s come­back shows after three women made claims of sex­ual as­sault against the hugely popular US co­me­dian who has de­clined to com­ment on the al­le­ga­tions that could sink his plans for re­viv­ing his ca­reer at the age of 77.

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