Indian guru held after deadly confrontation

Self-styled godman to appear in court in connection with murder case following his arrest by police in Haryana state.

    Indian guru held after deadly confrontation
    Baba Rampal Maharaj, a former engineer, is wanted in connection with a 2006 murder case [AP]

    Indian police have arrested a controversial Hindu leader at his heavily fortified residence, ending a confrontation with thousands of his followers in which six people died and hundreds more were injured.

    Baba Rampal Maharaj, 63, was arrested on Wednesday, a day after security forces stormed the 12-acre complex described as his "ashram" in the northern Haryana state.

    Police confirmed the arrest saying Maharaj, a former engineer, was scheduled to appear in court on Friday after undergoing medical tests.

    Tensions rose last week after a judge ordered Rampal's arrest over a 2006 murder case, in which he is accused of telling supporters to open fire on villagers, killing one and injuring six.

    Several charges including criminal conspiracy, rioting and attempted murder had been filed against Rampal.

    Al Jazeera's Faiz Jamil, reporting from New Delhi, said some of Rampal's supporters armed with batons and acid pouches had said they would not allow their leader to be arrested as they battled with riot police.

    Rampal had ignored more than 40 summons to go to court, our correspondent said, with his followers insisting that the charges were "bogus".

    Held against their will

    Many of the 15,000 people holed up with Rampal poured out of the complex on Tuesday night, with some of them saying they had been held inside against their will.

    Police fired water canon and tear gas and baton-charged the supporters who were armed with stones, petrol bombs and other weapons, television footage showed.

    Earlier on Wednesday, Rampal's followers handed over to police the bodies of four women who apparently died inside the complex, located about 175km from the capital New Delhi.

    A woman and an 18-month-old child also died in a neaby hospital after leaving the walled compound.

    The circumstances of the deaths were not clear, with autopsies being conducted.

    India has been rocked by several scandals involving immensely popular "godmen", mostly Hindu ascetics who claim to possess mystical powers.

    Last year one was charged with sexually assaulting a schoolgirl.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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