Cops Battle 20K to Arrest Indian Guru

Rampal Maharaj wanted for alleged role in 2006 murder
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2014 11:31 AM CST
Cops Battle 20K to Arrest Indian Guru
Controversial religious leader Sant Rampal stands by the door of a police van as he is brought to a court in Chandigarh, India, on Nov. 20, 2014.   (AP Photo/Kapil Sethi)

An Indian guru was arrested yesterday after a 10-day standoff during which at least six people died. Police say up to 20,000 followers of the guru Rampal Maharaj, who is wanted in connection with a 2006 murder, battled police at his ashram, a 2.5-acre religious complex in Hisar, the BBC and CNN report. Though police say followers used women and children as human shields, five women and an 18-month-old child "were sick and died because of lack of medical attention on time," authorities add. Rampal, 63, says he "regretted" the deaths but argues his supporters, who believe he can cure illness, "were acting on their own." Some 200 were injured as police used tear gas, water cannons, and bulldozers to penetrate the complex.

Police evacuated 16,000 followers, some of whom say they were coerced into fighting, but say several thousand more may remain. "We were separated from our families so that we couldn't leave," one supporter says. Commandos "said they would shoot us if we didn't throw stones to protect the guru." Others threw petrol bombs and fired on authorities, Quartz reports. Some 270 people were arrested and charged with rioting, attempt to murder, and waging war against the state. Rampal, a follower of the Indian mystic Kabir, had repeatedly failed to appear in court after he was accused in the death of a man during a 2006 clash at another ashram. His lawyer said he was too ill to travel. He will now remain in custody until Nov. 28. (More India stories.)

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