India

In pictures: Inside Indian guru Rampal's ashram

Controversial Indian guru Rampal's ashram in northern India saw pitched battles earlier this week between thousands of supporters and police trying to arrest their leader.

The guru was finally arrested on Wednesday night after a week-long stand-off. He has been remanded in custody until 28 November.

Rampal is wanted in connection with a 2006 murder case and for contempt of court.

Image copyright AFP

The imposing fortress-like Satlok Ashram in Barwala, in Haryana state is spread over 12 acres. The ground in front is littered with polythene bags, discarded clothes, papers, steel tumblers and even shoes - all testimony to the violence that unfolded here.

Image copyright AFP

The guru's followers come to the ashram from across India. Rampal used to deliver his sermons in this cavernous hall, which according to a visiting journalist, was the size of two football fields with "scores of enormous iron pillars and hundreds of fans suspended from the roof".

Image copyright AFP

Thousands of followers were forced to remain inside the ashram during the siege to offer the guru protection and prevent his arrest. The last of some 20,000 followers who were trapped inside left on Thursday evening.

Image copyright AFP

Police accuse the guru's armed devotees of holding people hostage, and using women and children as human shields. Some 100 devotees were injured in clashes with police, who found the bodies of four women and a child inside, although it remains unclear how they died.

Image copyright AFP

The guru used to sit on this chair - popularly known as the "throne" - and bless his followers across a shield of glass, according to reports. Police told The Telegraph newspaper that the chair was fitted with a hydraulic lift that helped Rampal emerge from the basement, "but his followers watched in awe, thinking he was emerging from nowhere".

Image copyright GURPREET SINGH/HINDUSTAN TIMES

The guru himself, according to reports, lived in a separate private mansion with an elevator and swimming pool.

Image copyright AFP

The 63-year-old guru, who is facing charges of murder and waging war against the nation, has "regretted" the deaths at the ashram, but denied police allegations that he had used his followers as human shields during clashes.

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