Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh riots: Five killed as violence erupts after 'guru of bling' convicted of rape in India

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Five people are dead and dozens injured as violence broke out in India after a hugely popular spiritual leader was convicted of rape.

Angry followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went a rampage in a city in northern India, according to the BBC, as two railway stations were reportedly set on fire.

Three of the victims, believed to be supporters of the guru, were shot dead by troops.

Singh was found guilty by a court in the northern city of Chandigarh at a hearing that sparked tens of thousands of his supporters to flock to the city, raising the spectre of violence.

More than 15,000 police and paramilitary soldiers were posted in and around the courthouse where the bearded guru, nicknamed the “guru of bling”, arrived in a convoy of 100 vehicles.

The BBC reported tear-gas shells being fired at crowds, while TV footage showed Singh’s fans attacking media vans.

Schools and roads were shut, trains canceled and roads blocked off as fans descended to support the flamboyant spiritual leader, who calls himself Saint Dr Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan.

The guru boasts a following of 50 million people (AP)

The special court found that Singh raped two of his female followers following a 15-year case led by India’s elite Central Bureau of Investigation. 

Singh’s quasi-religious Dera Sacha Sauda sect claims 50 million followers around the world and campaigns for vegetarianism and against drug addiction.

The allegations of sex abuse surfaced in an anonymous letter sent to the Indian prime minister in 2002.

Gurus have huge followings in India, and it is not unusual for leaders to have small, heavily armed private militias protecting them, but Singh is particularly powerful.

Riots predicted: Soldiers from the Indian army were on standby in Chandigarh (AP)

About 100,000 of his followers camped overnight in parks, plazas and on the streets of the town, a quiet residential suburb of Chandigarh, which is the common capital of Haryana and Punjab states.

Police erected heavy metal barricades topped with barbed wire along main roads in the town, and blocked the road leading to the courthouse. Officers on horseback monitored the crowds nearby.

“We are prepared to deal with any situation, but are confident that adequate measures have been put in place,” said BS Sandhu, a senior Haryana police official.

Army soldiers will later march through the streets to bolster a sense of security, he told reporters, as helicopters whirred overhead.

Authorities ordered internet and mobile phone services shut down across Haryana and Punjab as a security precaution.

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