Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh sentenced to 10 years for rape

The leader of a sect in India has been sentenced to 10 years for raping two of his followers in 2002.

A judge on Monday handed out the punishment to 50-year-old Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in Rohtak town in Haryana, a northern state.

The decision came after Singh’s verdict was delivered on Friday, an announcement that led to deadly violence as his angry supporters rioted in the streets and clashed with security forces.

More than 30 people were killed, hundreds were injured and dozens were later arrested.

READ MORE: Who is Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh?

Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman, reporting from Rohtak, said security was tight in Rohtak and Sirsa, where Singh’s headquarters are located, amid fears of further violence. 

“Security forces are searching anyone who’s entering Rohtak, while Sirsa is still under curfew,” he said. “In Sirsa, thousands of his followers are holed up in his ashram, or spritual centre, and they are refusing to leave.”

A curfew was put in place on Monday in Rohtak, too. Trains and buses leading to the town were cancelled to prevent Singh’s supporters from gathering there

The Haryana state government, controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, has faced criticism from the opposition and a state court for failing to stop last week’s violence. 

In advance of the sentencing, a spokesman for Singh’s sect, Dera Sacha Sauda, had urged his supporters to remain calm.

“I just want to request everyone to maintain peace at the moment,” said Dilawar Insan. “We will explore what legal options are available to us.”

In a monthly radio address on Sunday, Modi said it was “natural to be worried” after the violence, that briefly broke out in Delhi.

The rape case against Singh was brought after an anonymous letter was sent to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002. The author accused Singh of repeatedly raping her.

He has denied the charges.

Few details were immediately available following the sentencing, but Singh’s lawyers can appeal the verdict in a higher court.

The rape charges were investigated by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, and a special CBI court convicted and sentenced Singh.

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