Panchkula, Haryana: Twenty-eight people have died and 250 injured according to latest reports in Haryana's Panchkula in violence that erupted in the city after a court found self-styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of raping two women followers. The violence has spread to other towns in the state and neighbouring Punjab. Two buses and two train rakes have been set on fire in Delhi, which is on high alert.
Six columns, or about 600 soldiers of the Army have been called in to regain control in Panchkula. Thousands of troops and riot police had been deployed ahead of the verdict which was delivered by a court in Panchkula, but violence broke out as news of his conviction spread among the gathered devotees, whose strength had crossed 100,000 by last night.
Ram Rahim, who has been arrested and will be sentenced on Monday, was flown out by helicopter to a makeshift jail in Rohtak, where he will be jailed.
As news of his conviction spread, his followers waiting near the court broke down police barricades and threw stones, attacking OB vans of news channels, including NDTV. They smashed windows of the van and pushed one over. A fire engine and several cars were set on fire. "All I can see is smoke," reported NDTV's Amitoj Singh at 4 pm.
As the menacing mob advanced near the court house, the police, vastly outnumbered, retreated. An NDTV engineer was held by Ram Rahim followers who attacked him; he was hit on the head.
The police fired tear gas shells and used lathis or sticks and water cannons to control the crowds. There were also reports of the police firing in the air.
In two Punjab towns, Malout and Balluanna, train stations were set on fire. There is curfew in Bhatinda.
In Haryana's Sirsa, where Ram Rahim's sect is headquartered, Dera followers attacked media vehicles.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has appealed for peace, as has Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.