Controversial “godman” Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been found guilty by a special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Panchkula, Haryana, of raping two “sadhvis” (female followers) 14 years ago, according to media reports. He will be sentenced on August 28 and could be jailed for up to seven years.
The verdict sparked clashes that left at least 28 people dead and more than 200 injured.
The case against the Dera Sacha Sauda leader began in 2002 and there have since been about 200 hearings in the case, generating tremendous public interest.
Following the judgment, parts of Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh were put on high alert in anticipation of violence.
The Indian army conducted a flag march in Panchkula and adjoining areas as 20,000 of the self-styled spiritual guru’s supporters gathered for the verdict, the Economic Times reported.
The case against Gurmeet began when a Dera “sadhvi ” (female follower) wrote an anonymous letter to then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002 claiming that she had been raped. She also accused Gurmeet of sexually assaulting several other female followers inside the sprawling Dera campus.
When 18 of his sadhvis were questioned, two of them leveled allegations of rape.
India Today reported that Gurmeet has been a controversial figure since he took over as the Dera Sacha Sauda chief in 1990. In 2002, journalist Ram Chander Chhattrapati, who was investigating Dera rape claims, was murdered.