Injured supporters of Indian "godman" stop police from arresting guru

(Photo: REUTERS / Stringerself-styled "godman")Satguru Rampalji Maharaj, a self-styled "godman" is seen inside a police lock-up after his arrest, at Panchkula in the northern Indian state of Haryana November 20, 2014. A self-styled Indian religious leader was charged on Thursday with sedition and waging war against the state after a days-long siege of his sprawling compound ended in his arrest along with 450 hardcore followers. Police evacuated more than 10,000 followers on Wednesday from the fortified compound of a bizarre cult headed by 'godman' Satguru Rampalji Maharaj before capturing him late in the evening.

Hundreds of stone-throwing supporters of a self-styled "godman" in India have defended the ashram where he was staying as authorities tried to arrest him.

Authorities said he repeatedly defied order to appear in court and answer a slew of charges against him until he was eventually arrested on November 20.

Police lobbed teargas and charged the devotees with batons, while the followers retaliated with stones and petrol bombs, and defended the ashram of Rampal Maharaj with homemade weapons, the Hindustan Times reported November 18.

A godman is an Indian colloquial term used to refer to a type of charismatic guru.

At least 200 people were injured in the violent clash, as police failed to arrest Maharaj.

Supporters of Maharaj repeatedly ignored calls by the police to allow them into the compound because the guru had been cited for contempt by the court hearing his cases.

Some 2,000 followers are believed to be holed up in the ashram near Hissar City.

Authorities called off the operation in the evening, fearing that the violence could escalate as the followers might continue their defense of the ashram.

Police believe Maharaj is holed up in the ashram with his believers.

Of the 206 people injured in the violent dispersal, 76 were police, while 25 journalists covering the incident were also hurt, according to Mohammad Akil, additional director general of the police.

Authorities brought the injured to nearby hospitals around the area.

Maharaj, 63, has repeatedly ignored court orders to face his accusers who charge him with conspiracy to murder, inciting mobs and contempt of court. The guru is on bail for another case.

For many Indians, "godmen" are important in daily life because they are a living reminder of spiritual devotion and enlightenment. Sometimes people donate to ashrams, temples and charity projects.

But in the past years, several scandals have emerged involving hugely popular "godmen". In 2013, a "godman" was accused of sexually assaulting a schoolgirl.

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