Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday condemned the mayhem created by the followers of a guru convicted of rape and warned against further violence as the authorities tightened security a day ahead of his sentencing.
Thousands of supporters of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage in the northern state of Haryana on Friday after a court found him guilty of raping two women in 2002.
The death toll from the violence on Sunday climbed to 37, with 31 fatalities in the city of Panchkula and six from the town of Sirsa, where Singh's Dera Sacha Sauda, or True Deal Sect, is headquartered. More than 250 people were injured.
"India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Buddha. Violence is not acceptable in the nation, in any form," Modi said in his monthly radio address, referring to the recent clashes.
"I want to assure my countrymen that people who take the law into their own hands and are on the path of violent suppression - whether it is a person or a group - neither this country nor government will tolerate it," he said.
"Each and every person will have to abide by the law; the law will fix accountability and the guilty will unquestionably be punished."
The 50-year-old guru, who is lodged at a jail in the city of Rohtak, will be sentenced on Monday. He faces a minimum of seven years in jail.
Monday's court proceedings will be held at the prison. Senior Haryana state official Ram Niwas said "elaborate" security arrangements were in place and Singh's followers were being prevented from reaching Rohtak.
In a crackdown since Friday night, at least 600 followers were arrested while over 90 local centres of the sect were searched. Weapons, axes, iron rods and petrol bombs had been seized.
Ram Niwas said some 25,000 police, paramilitary and army soldiers were deployed at sensitive locations across the state, even as an 2,500 additional paramilitary had been requested.
Broadcaster NDTV estimated 30,000 followers were believed to be inside the 1,000-acre headquarters with many of them refusing to come out. The riot police and army personnel had woven a ring around the campus.
"Many have left the headquarters of their own volition. There are thousands who live on a permanent basis inside the campus, so we cannot insist on getting it vacated," Ram Niwas said.
The administration relaxed its curfew for a few hours on Sunday for people to buy food and essential items.
The large-scale rioting and arson on Friday saw the supporters targeting journalists and police and vandalising government property and setting fire to vehicles.
Panchkula police chief AS Chawla said "almost all" of the 31 dead ïn the city were followers of the sect. Many of the victims had suffered bullet wounds from police firing.
Singh has denied charges of rape, and spokespeople for his sect say they will challenge Friday's verdict in a higher court.
Dubbed "Rockstar Baba" or the "Guru of Bling" by the domestic media, Singh wears shiny, glamorous outfits and sings at concerts for his followers, acts in films and has his own line of food products.
The inter-faith sect which claims to have an estimated 60mn followers, was founded in 1948. It promotes vegetarianism and has taken up campaigns against drug addiction, of tree planting and the rehabilitation of prostitutes.
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