International desk – At least 29 people have been killed in violent protests over the rape conviction of a popular religious leader in north India, according to media reports Friday.
The arson and violence mark the protest in Punjab and Haryana after Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim was held guilty by a CBI court, according to Times of India online.
The victims are believed to be Singh’s followers. Angry supporters rampaged through Panchkula town, near Chandigarh.
Police said about 2,500 of Singh’s followers have been arrested after his devotees smashed cars and set media vans alight saying he was innocent.
More than 200,000 of his followers had flocked to the Chandigarh area ahead of Friday’s verdict, says BBC.
Singh, who says he has millions of disciples, was found guilty of raping two women at the headquarters of his sect, known as Dera Sacha Sauda, in 2002.
Thousands of army, police and paramilitary forces were deployed to maintain order. They fired tear-gas canisters and water cannon into the crowd to try to restore control.
Region’s police chief BS Sandhu said the violence was now under control.
Curfews have been imposed in several areas of Chandigarh city and across the state of Punjab, and internet services were suspended.
Violence also spread to the capital, Delhi, where two train coaches were set on fire, according to reports.
Singh, 50, was taken into protective custody by the army following the conviction.
The court is expected to sentence him on Monday.