Mobs rampaged across a north Indian town, leaving 12 people dead and 100 injured, after a court declared a quasi-religious sect leader guilty of raping two of his followers, per police and a hospital doctor. More than 15,000 paramilitary troops and police officers, some on horseback, were deployed in the town of Panchkula, and cops used a water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowd, the AP reports. Mobs set fire to government buildings and attacked police and TV journalists, smashing the windshields of media vans and breaking broadcast equipment. The violence broke out after a special court announced a guilty verdict Friday against the guru who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan.
Ram Rahim Singh—who'd denied the charges of raping two women at his ashram in 2002—was taken into custody and will be housed in a Haryana state jail until his Aug. 28 sentencing hearing, per a prosecutor. Panchkula administrators had feared a guilty verdict would trigger violence among the tens of thousands of followers who'd camped overnight awaiting the verdict. The guru's Dera Sacha Sauda sect claims to have some 50 million followers and campaigns for vegetarianism and against drug addiction. It has also taken up social causes such as organizing the weddings of poor couples. Such sects have huge followings in India. It's not unusual for leaders to have small, heavily armed private militias protecting them. When the guru left his ashram in Sirsa early Friday for the hearing, he was accompanied by a 100-vehicle convoy.