Asia

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to be sentenced for rape

PM warns against further clashes after deaths of at least 30 in the streets amid angry protests over guilty verdict.

A judge will hold the proceedings on Monday in a prison in Rohtak [AFP]

Thousands of supporters of a convicted Indian sect leader have ended a standoff with soldiers in India, a day before his sentencing which many fear could result in further violence.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, 50, was on Friday found guilty of raping two of his followers in 2002, a verdict that sent thousands of angry protesters rioting against the ruling in the streets.

At least 30 people were killed in the violence, more than 100 people were injured and more than 500 were arrested.

Judges are expected to sentence Singh on Monday. He faces seven years to life in prison.

Singh's group, Dera Sacha Sauda, has millions of followers.

READ MORE: Who is Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh?

Surjeet Singh, a police spokesperson, said a curfew imposed in Sirsa town, where the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters is located, was relaxed for five hours on Sunday to help people buy food and other essential items and outsiders to return home.

Fears of further violence

The presence of nearly 10,000 people in the headquarters has raised fears they may turn violent again after their leader is sentenced.

India's prime minister condemned the recent mayhem and warned against more clashes.

"People who take the law in their hands or take to violence will not be spared, no matter who they are," Narendra Modi said on Sunday in his monthly radio address, referring to the recent clashes.

"India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Buddha. Violence is not acceptable in the nation, in any form."

Singh has been convicted of raping two of his female followers in 2002 [File: AFP]

The judge will hold the proceedings in a prison in Rohtak town, where Singh has been held since Friday amid tight security.

Singh said hundreds of government forces, including the army, have been posted outside the group's headquarters since Friday's violence, when mobs set fire to government buildings, vandalised bus stations and government vehicles and attacked police and TV journalists in Panchkula.

Singh had denied the charges of raping the two women at his ashram 15 years ago.

Members of the group campaign for vegetarianism and against drug addiction.

They have also taken up social causes, such as organising the weddings of poor couples.

Huge followings

Groups such as Dera Sacha Sauda have huge followings in India and their leaders often maintain private militias for protection.

Clashes in 2007 between the Dera Sacha Sauda followers and members of the Sikh faith left at least three people dead in northern India.

In 2014, six people were killed when followers of another religious leader, the sect leader Rampal, fought street battles with police who were attempting to arrest him after he repeatedly failed to appear in court in connection with a murder trial.

Source: News agencies