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At least 28 people have been killed during violent protests in India which broke out after a popular religious leader was convicted of rape.
Violent protests spread across areas of the country throughout Friday, with mobs setting fire to government buildings, attacking police and TV journalists in the town of Panchkula in Haryana state.
Those killed are believed to be followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was found guilty of rape on Friday.
Thousands of his supporters descended on the Chandigarh area for the verdict, reportedly smashing cars and setting media vans alight.
The rioting has now reportedly spread to Delhi.
The violence left at least 28 dead, including some with bullet wounds, and more than 250 injured, according to B.S. Sandhu, a top Haryana police official.
Police initially used tear gas and water cannons and then fired bullets in the air in an attempt to control the surging mobs as they vandalized bus stations and government vehicles.
“The situation is tense. There has been arson and burning,” Rajiv Mehrishi, the federal home secretary, said late on Friday.
He said more than 1,000 of the guru’s supporters had been detained in Panchkula on charges of arson and destruction of public property.
The special court announced the guilty verdict on Friday after hearing closing arguments in the 15-year-old case against the guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan.
The guru, who had denied the charges of raping the two women at his ashram in 2002, was flown by helicopter to a jail in the nearby town of Rohtak because district officials feared they would be overrun by his supporters. His sentencing is to be held Aug. 28, prosecutor H.P.S. Verma said.
Tens of thousands of followers had camped overnight awaiting the verdict.
Violence also broke out elsewhere in Haryana and the neighboring state of Punjab, as well as in the capital, New Delhi, police said.
Railway stations in the towns of Malout and Balluana were ablaze, and two coaches of an empty train parked in New Delhi’s Anand Vihar station were set on fire.
A curfew was imposed in at least four districts of Punjab, said Amrinder Singh, the state’s chief minister.
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