Indian Guru Whose Followers Rioted Is Sentenced for Rape

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Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s ashram in Sirsa, India. Mr. Singh, who claims to have 60 million followers worldwide, was convicted of raping two women.

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Money Sharma/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

NEW DELHI — An Indian court on Monday sentenced a well-known guru to 20 years in prison for rape, three days after followers angered by his conviction engaged in violent protests in which dozens of people were killed.

The guru, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was found guilty on Friday of having raped two women more than a decade ago. Thousands of Mr. Singh’s followers had gathered in Panchkula in Haryana State, where the verdict was announced. They responded by smashing cars, setting fire to buildings and attacking police officers in the city, about 150 miles north of Delhi, and the violence later spread to other cities in northern India. At least 38 people were killed and more than 250 were injured.









Initial reports indicated that Mr. Singh had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for each of the rape convictions, but that the terms would be served concurrently. But a spokesman for the Central Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the rape allegations against Mr. Singh, later said that he would serve the sentence consecutively.

There were no immediate reports of similar violence after Mr. Singh’s sentencing on Monday, which was reported by the Press Trust of India and other news organizations. Soldiers and police officers had been deployed in large numbers, and the sentence was delivered not in a court but at the jail where Mr. Singh was being held, in Rohtak, about 50 miles northwest of New Delhi. A judge was flown to the jail by helicopter.

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Mr. Singh

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European Pressphoto Agency

The authorities had suspended some train and bus services and put several cities in the area under curfew in an attempt to prevent further violence.

Mr. Singh, 50, is the leader of Dera Sacha Sauda, a sect that has many followers in northern India and claims to have 60 million worldwide. Often referred to as the “guru of bling,” Mr. Singh is known for his flashy lifestyle and flamboyant dress.

He was convicted of raping two women at the headquarters of his sect, in a case…

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