India holds four policemen for rapist guru 'escape plan'

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Indian spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim poses for a photograph after he was spotted at a shopping mall in New Delhi on January 5, 2015Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of rape and sent to jail for 20 years

Four Indian policemen have been arrested for trying to help guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim escape after he was convicted of rape last month.

Senior police officer AS Chawla told BBC Punjabi that three of the men were from the northern state of Haryana and one from western Rajasthan state.

Police said the men were part of an "escape plan" but did not give details.

Violence after the verdict in the town of Panchkula killed some 38 people and made headlines around the world.

The self-styled holy man was found guilty of sexually assaulting two female followers and was jailed for 20 years.

The arrested men were part of Singh's government-appointed security detail but local media reports said they had become his devotees over the years.

They had accompanied him to the court in Panchkula to hear the verdict.

Who is Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh?

  • Controversial leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, which claims to have 60 million followers around the world
  • Took over the sect - which describes itself as "a non-profit social welfare and spiritual organisation" - when he was 23
  • Performs at rock concerts, acts in films and even has his own line of food products
  • Known as "rockstar baba" and "guru of bling" because of his shiny, colourful clothes
  • Has been accused of mocking Sikh and Hindu figures
  • Has been investigated for murder and rape, charges he denies
  • Has been accused of forcing followers to undergo castration to "get closer to god"

Singh is also an accused in the 2002 murder of Ram Chander Chhatrapati, the editor of a local Haryana newspaper Poora Sach (Whole Truth). He was shot dead just weeks after he published an explosive letter that ultimately led to Singh's conviction.

The anonymous letter, believed to be written by one of his female disciples, contained the first accusations of rape against him.

Singh has, however, denied any involvement in Chhatrapati's murder.

He has also been accused of forcing 400 of his followers to undergo castration so they could "get closer to God".