An Indian court on Friday found the controversial and hugely popular spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim guilty of raping two of his female followers in a 15-year-old case, Hindustan Times reported.
According to the Indian daily, the guru, who heads the Dera Sacha Sauda religious sect, is facing seven years in jail after the verdict was announced by a special court of India’s top agency, Central Bureau of Investigation.
The sentence, however, will be announced on Monday.
Tens of thousands of supporters who had been waiting for hours near the court shouted in anger after the ruling was announced in Panchkula town.
More than 15,000 police and paramilitary soldiers were posted in and around the court where the guru appeared before a judge as Panchkula administrators feared an outbreak of violence.
The guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, had denied the charges of raping two of his female followers.
The self-styled guru was also under investigation in 2015 for allegedly encouraging 400 followers to undergo castrations at his ashram so they could get closer to God.
Religious sects like the Dera Sacha Sauda have huge followings in India. It’s not unusual for leaders of these sects to often have small, heavily armed private militias protecting them.
The sect claims to have 50 million followers and runs a spiritual empire that promotes vegetarianism and campaigns against drug addiction.
In 2007, clashes between the Dera Sacha Sauda followers and members of the Sikh faith in northern India had left at least three people dead.
In 2014, six people were killed as followers of another popular religious leader, guru Rampal, fought pitched battles with police who were attempting to arrest him for contempt of court after he repeatedly failed to appear in court in connection with a murder trial.