Indian guru is jailed amid heightened security for 10 years for raping two of his followers

Indian guru is jailed amid heightened security for 10 years for raping two of his followers
File photo of Dr Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan.

A controversial Indian spiritual guru has been jailed for 10 years on charges of raping two female followers.

The sentence was announced on Monday amid intense security at a prison in the northern town of Rohtak, where the guru, who calls himself Dr Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, has been in prison since his conviction on Friday.

The conviction sparked violent protests by his followers that left at least 38 people dead.

A curfew was imposed in Rohtak and in Sirsa town, where the guru's Dera Sacha Sauda sect has a sprawling ashram. Both towns are in Haryana state.

Thousands of police, paramilitary and army soldiers were deployed in both towns to prevent a repeat of Friday's violence.

Ahead of the sentencing announcement, train and bus services to Rohtak were suspended to prevent the guru's supporters from gathering in the town, located in Haryana state. A curfew was also imposed.

Local police said that several layers of security were in place around the prison and that government troops had permission to use firearms if violence erupted. All cars entering the town were being searched.

The guru denied raping the two followers, in a case that stems from charges filed in 2002.

Few details were immediately available following the sentencing, but the guru's lawyers can appeal the verdict in a higher court.

The rape charges were investigated by India's Central Bureau of Investigation, and a special CBI court convicted and sentenced the guru.

Security was high on Monday across Haryana and the neighbouring state of Punjab, with schools and offices shut in many places.

A curfew was also in place in Sirsa town, where the sprawling main headquarters of the guru's Sacha Sauda sect are located.

Since Saturday, police have been asking followers to leave the ashram compound, and around 20,000 people left.

Local police spokesman Surjeet Singh said about 4,000 government troops, including army and paramilitary soldiers, were patrolling the town and the area outside the ashram.

When the guru was found guilty on Friday, tens of thousands of his enraged followers set fire to government buildings, vandalised bus stations and government vehicles, and attacked police and TV journalists in Panchkula, where the verdict was announced.

The sect claims to have about 50 million followers and campaigns for vegetarianism and against drug addiction. It also organises blood-donation and tree-planting drives.

AP

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