At least 28 persons were killed and 250 injured as arson and violence hit parts of northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana following the conviction of a self-styled godman in a rape case.
Seventeen persons have been killed as large-scale violence rocked Haryana minutes after a special court convicted Dera Sacha Sauda (a breakaway sect of Sikhs) chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a 15-year old rape case, reports our Delhi Correspondent quoting Haryana government officials.
Ram Rahim Singh’s followers set on fire train coaches, stations, vehicles, TV vans and beat up media persons. Police fired tear gas and gunshots to control the angry supporters of the convict.
Violent supporters set many government offices on fire in Haryana and Punjab.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was today found guilty of raping two female followers by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Panchkula, Haryana. The quantum of the sentence will be announced on Monday, August 28. The Dera chief faces up to seven years in jail.
CBI had filed an FIR against Ram Rahim Singh in 2002.
Both Punjab and Haryana states were put under heavy lockdown as thousands of followers of Ram Rahim Singh are on the roads. Trains and bus services have been cancelled, schools and colleges are closed and army and paramilitary forces deployed in and around the area of the CBI court in Panchkula.
Curfew was clamped in Panchkula and Bhatinda town in Punjab, reports said.
Supporters of Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage setting government buildings and media OB vans on fire and vandalizing government offices.
Two train coaches at Delhi’s Anand Vihar railway station were burnt and a bus torched in the national capital’s Loni Chowk locality allegedly by supporters of the Dera chief.
Police fired in the air, lobbed tear gas and used water cannons to try and disperse mobs of Ram Rahim Singh’s supporters but were easily outnumbered near the court house which declared him guilty. More than a lakh of Ram Rahim's followers had congregated in Panchkula for the verdict.
‘The arson and violence spread quickly to other towns of Punjab and Haryana where Ram Rahim's headquarters is located at Sirsa.
Earlierl Ram Rahim Singh reached the Panchkula special court for the verdict in a 200-car cavalcade and stood with his eyes closed and hands folded in prayer as the verdict was delivered.