ROHTAK, HARYANA: Self-styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was today sentenced to 20 years in prison for the rape of two women followers in 2002, by a judge who flew by government helicopter to conduct court at a prison in Haryana's Rohtak. The 50-year-old chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect sat on the floor and wept as he was sentenced. Ram Rahim's followers went on a deadly rampage after he was convicted on Friday. 38 people died and over 200 were injured in the violence. There were no reports of violence after Ram Rahim was sentenced today. Thousands of policemen enforced a lockdown in large parts of Haryana and Punjab, where he has a mass following.
Here are the 10 latest developments in this big story:
- The lawyer for the two women who accused Ram Rahim of raping them 15 years ago, has said he seeks a life term for Ram Rahim and investigators to probe dozens more alleged cases of abuse. The CBI has asked the court to consider a longer prison term for the Dera chief and will press other charges against him, sources said.
- "Mujhe maaf kar do (Please forgive me)," said Ram Rahim as he broke down in court today. His lawyers, who pleaded for a lighter sentence in view of what they called his humanitarian work, have said they will appeal in a higher court.
- The Dera chief will be sent for a medical examination and then will be given a prison uniform and will be allotted a jail cell as prisoner number 1997. Since Friday, when he was flown to Rohtak in a luxury helicopter, Ram Rahim occupied a special cell and was given bottled water and was allowed an assistant, amid massive criticism.
- Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar has called for an emergency meeting with top ministers, bureaucrats and police officers at his home in Chandigarh and has appealed for peace.
- Judge Jagdeep Singh delivered sentence at the Rohtak prison to prevent a repeat of Friday's violence, when tens of thousands of his supporters set fire to cars and clashed with security forces in violence that began outside the court in the town of Panchkula and spread to other places.
- The police had deployed tear gas and water cannons, but with little impact. It was clear the authorities grossly underestimated the risk posed by the army of Ram Rahim's devotees.
- Today thousands of paramilitary troops and anti-riot police blocked all roads near the Rohtak prison. The Army is on standby. Residents were warned to stay indoors and large gatherings were banned in Rohtak. All schools and colleges in Haryana were closed today.
- Senior members of Ram Rahim's Dera Sacha Sauda sect were placed under detention as a precautionary measure. Over the weekend, more than 100 branches of the sect were sanitised and sealed across Haryana. Petrol cans and sticks were found stockpiled.
- The police in Sirsa, where Ram Rahim's 1,000-acre main base is located, have been urging about 1,000 devotees to emerge from the campus. The followers insist the flamboyant Ram Rahim is innocent. "Our father can never do any sin," devotee Trilok Insaan said ahead of the sentence at a shop in Sirsa, adorned with posters of a heavily-bearded Ram Rahim.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned yesterday that "Violence is not acceptable in the nation, in any form." But his party, the BJP, which governs Haryana, has come under heavy fire for failing to prevent the outbreak of violence and allowing the 50-year-old guru to travel in a luxury chopper to jail.