Violent protests have killed at least 28 people after a court convicted a self-styled "godman" of raping two women, angering thousands of his supporters.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of a social welfare and spiritual group, was found guilty on Friday of raping two followers in a case dating back to 2002 at the headquarters of his Dera Sacha Sauda group in the northern town of Sirsa.
Supporters rampaged in response, attacking railway stations, petrol stations and television vans in towns across the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, witnesses said.
At least 28 people were killed, almost all in Panchkula town where the court returned its verdict on Singh, the chief secretary of Haryana Ram Niwas said. More than 250 people were injured in the two states.
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Dozens of cars were burning in Panchkula town while a bloodied body lay in the middle of a road. About 500 army soldiers were deployed to restore order.
"The situation is coming under control," federal home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said in New Delhi.
Television footage showed frantic scenes outside a hospital in Panchkula, with medical staff hurriedly transferring injured patients from ambulances on to wheelchairs and stretchers. Smoke could be seen rising in another part of town.
Singh commands a following that he claims is in the millions, many of them elderly men and women in the countryside, drawn by his social welfare programs such as medical camps and disaster relief.
The court, which held him guilty of rape, set his sentencing for Monday when there could be more protests. He faces a minimum of seven years in prison.
Singh, a burly, bearded man who has scripted and starred in his own films, has denied the charges. He had called on his followers through a video message to remain peaceful.
A.K. Dhir, one of his lawyers, said Singh was innocent and his followers had every right to express their outrage.
Protests also erupted in New Delhi and in the neighbouring state of Rajasthan. Supporters of Singh set fire to some buses and two empty train coaches in the capital.
Nearly 1000 members of his Sacha Sauda group were detained.
Television channels showed motorcycles, cars and buses in flames in Panchkula as hundreds of police personnel in riot gear watched helplessly. The mob also toppled a TV outdoor broadcasting van, while several news channels said their journalists were targeted.
Besides the rape charges, Singh is also under investigation over allegations that he convinced 400 of his male followers to undergo castration, allegations he denies.
A variety of reasons have been given for why the men agreed to castration, including promises of becoming closer to god.