Spiritual guru (77) with millions of followers worldwide is jailed for raping teenage girl
A 77-year-old Indian spiritual guru who claims to have millions of followers worldwide has been sentenced to life in prison for raping a teenage girl in 2013, in a trial held amid fears of major rioting.
A court in the western Indian city of Jodhpur ruled Asaram Bapu had raped a 16-year-old girl in the city at one of his 400-odd ashrams, where he instructed disciples in meditation and yoga.
Heavy security was in place for the verdict after nine prosecution witnesses were attacked and three died during protests over the course of his trial. Twenty-three died during disorder following the sentencing of another guru, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, for rape last year.
The verdict and sentencing were delivered inside the Jodhpur jail amid tight security, as the authorities feared that taking the guru to the courthouse in the city centre could trigger violence from his followers.
Police in the nearby states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat, where Bapu has a large following, were placed on high alert in anticipation of trouble, officials said.
Bapu was arrested in 2013 after two of his followers alleged that he had raped their teenage daughter under the pretext of exorcising her, as they waited outside his special chambers intoning prayers for their child's well-being. Bapu, along with his son, is also on trial in western Gujarat for allegedly raping two sisters in 2003 and 2004.