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Soldiers deployed as thousands gather to hear verdict in Guru rape case

27 Août 2017

At least 29 people have been killed and 200 injured in violent protests in northern India after the leader of a religious cult was found guilty of raping two of his followers.

Security personnel were still guarding Panchkula, which was among the worst affected towns during the violence, as some shops started to reopen and people came out of their homes.

Police initially used tear gas and water cannons, then fired bullets in the air in an attempt to control the surging mobs as they vandalised bus stations and government vehicles.

Dozens of cars were burning in Panchkula town and television footage showed frantic scenes outside a hospital, with medical staff hurriedly transferring injured patients from ambulances on to wheelchairs and stretchers.

In Punjab, curfew was relaxed in Patiala, Bathinda and Ferozepur towns for four hours, while in Haryana it was relaxed in Kaithal town.

"There has been violence in some towns in Punjab, we are taking all measures to maintain peace", said the state chief minister Amarinder Singh.

Security forces were on "standby" outside the spiritual leader's headquarters where some 10,000 followers remained holed up, the Director General of Police in Haryana state, Baljit Singh Sandhu, told India Today news station.

He is the spiritual leader of Dera Sacha Sauda, a controversial spiritual sect founded in 1948.

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The government of the United Kingdom has issued a safety advisory for its citizens in India in the wake of yesterday's violence in several states of the country following the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in connection with a 15-year-old rape case. The clashes broke out after a court convicted the Dera head of raping two of his followers. "Justice has finally prevailed".

Sharma said the Singh faced a minimum of seven years in prison.

The rape allegations, which Singh denied, first surfaced in an anonymous letter sent to the Indian prime minister in 2002.

On Thursday, police were checking all vehicles entering Haryana state where both the court house and the guru's ashram are located.

Police had erected heavy metal barricades topped with barbed wire along main roads in Panchkula, a quiet residential suburb of Chandigarh, which is the common capital of Haryana and Punjab states.

Officers on horseback monitored crowds near the courthouse.

Authorities imposed an indefinite curfew in Panchkula, where mobile internet services had earlier been cut off.

India's Northern Railway reported that 690 trains had been affected by the "law and order situation" in Haryana and Punjab as of 2:30 p.m. local time.

Soldiers deployed as thousands gather to hear verdict in Guru rape case