India rape guru, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh jailed for 10 years

A controversial Indian godman convicted of rape on Friday has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Indian media reported that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s followers had set a vehicle on fire just ahead of sentencing.

Violence after Friday’s verdict in Panchkula in northern Haryana state had killed some 38 people.

The self-styled holy man was found guilty of sexually assaulting two female followers.

Singh’s legal team has already said it will appeal against the verdict in the Punjab and Haryana high court.

Media reports said that prosecutors would be asking for a harsher sentence. They had called for a life term.

Following the sentencing, the chief minister of Haryana state, where Singh’s ashram is located, called an emergency meeting.

A curfew has already been imposed in several areas of Haryana and Punjab states, while the capital Delhi is on alert.

The army has been put on standby and police say they have been given “shoot on sight” orders in case of trouble.

Singh, 50, was not taken to court to hear his sentence. Instead, the judge who convicted him was flown to the prison in the town of Rohtak where Singh is being held.

The prison has been transformed into a fortress, with journalists banned within a 1.5km (one mile) radius.

Rohtak, in Haryana state, is also under police and military lockdown, the roads lined with barbed-wire barricades.

There is also heavy security outside Singh’s 1,000-acre compound in Sirsa, Haryana.

Tens of thousands of his supporters are still believed to be inside the Dera Sacha Sauda sect headquarters, despite many opting to leave following a tense stand-off with soldiers.

The Dera’s Sirsa headquarters is a huge township that houses schools, a hospital and a cinema.

In his monthly radio address on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was “natural to be worried” after days of violence which had briefly reached Delhi.

“Violence is not acceptable in the nation, in any form,” Mr Modi said.

“Those who take the law into their hands or take to violence will not be spared, whoever they are.”

Source: BBC