Self-styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the rape of two women followers in 2002. The 50-year-old chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect reportedly broke down as he was sentenced at a jail in Haryana's Rohtak by Judge Jagdeep Singh, who flew down by helicopter to conduct a prison-side court hearing.
Thousands of soldiers are guarding the prison and the army is on stand by. No civilians are being allowed within 10 km of the prison. Over a lakh of Ram Rahim's followers had gathered in Panchkula, where he was convicted on Friday, and they erupted in violence that left 38 people dead and over 200 injured.
Ram Rahim's lawyers had pleaded for a lighter sentence in view of his philanthropic work today; the CBI had sought a life sentence. The judge delivered the sentence at the Rohtak prison today to prevent a repeat of Friday's violence in Panchkula after the chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda was convicted.
Thousands of paramilitary troops and anti-riot police have blocked off all roads in the area. Military sources said the Army can enter Rohtak in about an hour if needed. Barbed-wire barriers have been erected and residents have been warned to stay indoors in Rohtak.
Large gatherings are banned in the city. Mobile internet services remain suspended. All schools and colleges in Haryana are closed.
Senior members of Ram Rahim's Dera Sacha Sauda sect were placed under detention as a precautionary measure. The Rohtak police has warned that it may shoot at any sign of trouble.
Over 1,50,000 members of Ram Rahim's Dera Sacha Sauda had gathered in Panchkula in a show of support before Friday's verdict. Violent protests followed across his power base in the Haryana, with police deploying tear gas and water cannons, with little impact. It was clear the authorities grossly underestimated the risk posed by the army of Ram Rahim's devotees.
Over the weekend, more than 100 branches of the sect have been sanitised and sealed across Haryana. Petrol cans and sticks were found stockpiled. The police in Sirsa, where his 1,000- acre main base is located, have been urging about 30,000 devotees to emerge from the campus.