Judge sends Indian guru to jail for 20 years in rapes

Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh

Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh

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.

Journalist Sanjiv Mahajan on Monday said that self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh threatened the jail authorities of getting them suspended when the Director General of Police (DGP), Prison, refused his daughter to stay in the prison.

The accounts of the two victims - who were minors when they were raped in 2002 - hint at the deviancy prevalent inside the ashram for decades.

The guru was convicted on Friday by the special court of India's premier investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Ram Rahim had filed a total of over 60 petitions in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The judge had to be flown in by helicopter for the sentencing. Mr Vipassana Insaan, a spokeswoman for the Dera Sacha Sauda, urged Singh's followers to respect the court's order. "However, the convict committed breach of the gravest nature by sexually assaulting such gullible and blind followers", the order read. "Nobody is above the law", he said, adding his government had no deal with Ram Rahim.

While the prosecution sought life imprisonment for Singh, the defence put forth the argument that Singh was a social worker who should be dealt with leniently, after the judge gave each side 10 minutes to argue their case.

The judge, in the end, rejected his appeal, saying "when the convict did not even spare his own pious disciples and acted like a wild beast, he did not deserve any mercy".

"Let them demand (resignation), we have handled the situation well", the CM stated despite the courts coming down heavy on the BJP-ruled state for mishandling of crowd that led to 38 deaths of Dera supporters in police firing.

There were no reports of violence except for two cars that were set on fire in Sirsa ahead of the sentencing. He commands an estimated 50 million followers worldwide.

Paramilitary soldiers stand guard on a closed road leading to Sunariya Jail in Rohtak in the northern state of Haryana, India, August 28, 2017.

The case has taken almost 15 years to reach the verdict stage. He said that the Punjab government would continue to maintain constant vigil to ensure that peace is maintained in the state, with curfew to remain in force till needed.

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