PANCHKULA, HARYANA: Seven people have died and atleast 70 injured in Haryana's Panchkula in violence that erupted in the city after self-styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was found guilty of raping two women followers, news agency Press Trust of India reported quoting a hospital. The violence has spread to other towns in the state and neighbouring Punjab. Six columns, or about 600 soldiers of the Army have been called in to regain control in Panchkula.
Ram Rahim has been arrested and will be sentenced on Monday.
Thousands of troops and riot police had been deployed ahead of the verdict which was delivered by a court in Panchkula, but violence broke out as news of his conviction spread among the gathered devotees, whose strength had crossed 1,00,000 by last night.
Ram Rahim’s followers waiting near the court broke down police barricades and threw stones, attacking OB vans of news channels, including NDTV. They smashed windows of the van and pushed one over. A fire engine and several cars were set on fire.
As the menacing mob advanced near the court house, the police, vastly outnumbered, retreated. An NDTV engineer was held by Ram Rahim followers who attacked him; he was hit on the head.
The police fired tear gas shells and used lathis or sticks and water cannons to control the crowds. There were also reports of the police firing in the air.
Delhi has been placed on high alert.
In two Punjab towns, Malout and Balluanna, train stations were set on fire. There is curfew in Bhatinda.
In Haryana's Sirsa, where Ram Rahim's sect is headquartered, Dera followers attacked media vehicles.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has appealed for peace.