Clashes as controversial Indian guru remanded in custody
Controversial religious leader Sant Rampal stands by the door of a police van as he is brought to a court, surrounded by police personnel in Chandigarh, India, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014.Rampal was arrested late Wednesday night and produced in court on Thursday
A self-styled controversial Indian guru who many people believe can cure illnesses, was arrested after a week-long stand-off at his ashram in Haryana state.
He has been remanded in custody until 28th November.
Sant Rampal, a former engineer, is wanted in connection with a 2006 murder case in which a man died in a clash at his ashrams. He’s also wanted for contempt of court.
His arrest follows a day of his supporters fighting a pitched battle with the police at his ashram.
At least six people died during the stand-off, police said. The bodies of four women and a child were found at the site on Wednesday 19th November.
A fifth woman, aged 20, died at a local hospital after leaving the ashram. The causes of their deaths are being investigated. Police say the bodies did not "bear any injuries".
The 63-year-old guru, who is facing charges of waging war against the nation, told reporters on Thursday that he "regretted" the deaths, but denied police allegations that he had used his followers as human shields during clashes.
"I did not use them (as shields). They were acting on their own," he said.
The guru also denied all the charges against him saying "I am innocent, all the charges against me are baseless".
After being led out of his fortress-like complex in an ambulance late on Wednesday, the guru was taken for a medical examination.
Before arresting Rampal, the police managed to evacuate more than 16,000 followers from the ashram and sent them home in buses and trains.
Police accused his armed devotees of holding people hostage, and using women and children as human shields.
More than 200 people were injured in the clashes - police fired tear gas and water cannon, and used bulldozers to try to break into the sprawling complex, while ashram members threw stones and other missiles and opened fire.
At least 270 people have been arrested in connection with the violence and charged with rioting, illegal detention, attempt to murder and waging war against the state.
The authorities ordered his arrest on contempt charges after he repeatedly failed to appear in court.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had set a final deadline for Rampal to appear in court on Monday in the contempt case.
Rampal ignored the summons and his lawyers said he was too ill to make the 250km (155-mile) journey to the court in Chandigarh, which serves as the capital of both states.
The judges criticised the government, saying they "lacked the will" to arrest the guru and said he must be in court by Friday.