Indian Police Storm Cult Leader Rampal’s Compound

Image: Satguru Rampalji Maharaj, a self-styled "godman" is escorted to the high court after his arrest, in Chandigarh
Satguru Rampalji Maharaj is escorted to the high court after his arrest in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh on November 20, 2014. AJAY VERMA / Reuters

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. The 63-year-old former engineer, known to his followers as Rampal, had been wanted for ignoring more than 40 court summonses in connection with a murder case. "I am innocent," he told reporters as he was brought out, handcuffed, from a court in the northwestern city of Chandigarh. "All allegations against me are false."

Police used tear gas, water cannon and bulldozers to storm Rampal's 12-acre base, breaching resistance from a human chain of supporters outside, and men throwing stones and bottles filled with acid from its roof. Officials said the bodies of five women and one infant had been found. There were no bullet marks or injuries on the dead, who were sent for postmortem examinations.

— Reuters