World

'Godman' convicted of rape, 13 killed in ensuing protests

NEW DELHI: Thirteen people were killed as protests erupted in India yesterday after a court convicted a self-styled "godman" of raping two women, angering thousands of his supporters who say he is innocent, police and lawyers said.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of a social welfare and spiritual group, was found guilty of raping two female 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 soon after the verdict was announced, attacking railway stations, petrol stations and television vans in towns across the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, witnesses said.

Police fired teargas to disperse his supporters.

The thirteen people were killed in Panchkula town, where the court gave its verdict on Singh, deputy commissioner of police Panchkula Ashok Kumar said.

Eighteen more were injured.

A curfew was imposed in three districts in Punjab, which are strongholds of the Dera Sacha Sauda group.

"We are taking all measures to maintain peace," said Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh.

The guru commands a following he claims is in the millions. Supporters started gathering outside the court on Thursday. His sentence will be announced later in the month.

A lawyer said the man faces a minimum of seven years in prison.- REUTERS

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