Indian Guru Rampal arrested after deadly ashram clashes

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Media captionGovernment spokesman Jawahar Yadav: Priority to "save innocent lives"

Indian police have arrested a controversial guru a day after pitched battles with his supporters left at least six people dead.

The self-styled guru, known as Rampal, is wanted in connection with a 2006 murder case and for contempt of court.

His supporters threw stones and opened fire when police tried to raid his ashram in the northern state of Haryana.

The bodies of four women and a child were subsequently found at the site.

A fifth woman, aged 20, died at a local hospital after leaving the ashram.

The causes of their deaths have not been revealed. Police say the bodies did not "bear any injuries".

The guru was led out of the complex in an ambulance late on Wednesday, as dozens of local villagers cheered the police.

He has been taken to the state capital, Chandigarh, a senior police official told the BBC. He is likely to appear in court on Thursday.

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Image caption Police are present in force but there has been no violence on Wednesday
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Image caption Police used water cannon to try and disperse the guru's supporters on Tuesday
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hundreds of people were injured in the clashes

A week-long stand-off at the Satlok Ashram - some 170km (105 miles) north-east of Delhi - escalated on Tuesday as police moved in to arrest Rampal.

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.

Hundreds of people were hurt in the operation.

Police accuse the guru's armed devotees of holding people hostage, and using women and children as human shields.

At least 270 people have been arrested in connection with Tuesday's clashes and charged with rioting, illegal detention, attempt to murder and waging war against the state.

The authorities also cut off power and water supplies to the site.

Mani Ram, a devotee who managed to escape, told the Indian Express newspaper that ashram authorities had prevented them from leaving for two days, insisting police would kill them if they went outside.

Who is Rampal?

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Rampal is accused of involvement in a murder case dating from 2006 in which a man died in a clash at another of his ashrams.

He denied the allegations and was released on bail. 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.

Many people visit the guru, believing he can cure illnesses.

Rampal: How did an engineer become a revered guru?

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