International

Indian authorities seal 30 centers of rape convict “spiritual leader”


NEW DELHI, Aug. 28 — At least 30 congregation centers of rape
convict self-styled Indian godman and spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim
Singh have been sealed across northern state of Haryana, officials said
Sunday.

Haryana Police Chief B. S. Sandhu said they have evacuated about 6,000
people from Singh’s Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters in Sirsa and around 4,000
are gradually leaving the place. “The state government has sealed over 30
congregation centers of the Dera Sacha Sauda across the state,” he said.
Curfew and prohibitory orders against assembling of people are in place as
a precautionary measure at sensitive places. Reports said Indian army and
paramilitary have surrounded Sirsa headquarters and appeals were being made
to Singh’s followers to vacate the 800-acre sprawling complex.

Deadly violence broke out in the state on Friday afternoon immediately
after a local court convicted Singh for committing rape of its two women
followers in 2002. Singh’s followers went on rampage burning vehicles,
train coaches, petrol stations etc. At least 37 people were killed and over
250 others injured in the violence. According to India’s state-run
broadcaster 31 deaths were reported from Panchkula district, while as six
others from Sirsa. With court to pronounce the quantum of punishment to
Singh on Monday, police said necessary security arrangements have been made
to prevent recurring of violence. “The Haryana government has suspended
Ashok Kumar, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Panchkula, alleging that
his defective prohibitory orders allowed the crowd build-up in the
district. Deputy advocate general Gurdas Salwara has also been sacked for
accompanying Ram Rahim after his rape conviction,” an official said.

Singh has been kept in Rothak jail following his arrest from court on
Friday and security agencies have put multi-layered security arrangements
outside it, fearing Singh’s followers might try to storm the jail. The
roads that lead to the jail have reportedly been fortified with huge
security presence of police and paramilitary. Local media reports said
Singh’s lawyers will approach the Punjab and Haryana high court next week
against his conviction. On Saturday the situation remained peaceful. In
the wake of the heavy police and paramilitary deployment, the towns present
a ghost look as shops are closed and most people off the roads. The mobile
phone internet service has been snapped. The 50-year-old Singh heads a
religious sect and claims to run a “social welfare and spiritual
organization”. Singh, the flamboyant and controversial chief claims to
have 50 million followers and runs a spiritual empire. Of late he has
started featuring in films. In his movies “MSG: The Messenger of God” and
“MSG2”, Singh wears dazzling costumes, rides motorcycle, and is seen
sending villains flying. Prior to his conviction, Singh was enjoying a
political patronage and had cordial relations with the politicians. – XINHUA