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Guru Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Ji Insan Jailed for Rapes

The guru, who calls himself Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Ji Insan, was given 10 years in jail for raping two members of his sect, the Dera Sacha Sauda.
Image: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in Mumbai
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh holds a news conference to launch the score for his film "MSG-2 The Messenger" in Mumbai, September 2015.PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP - Getty Images

Parts of northern India were on lockdown Monday, with 4,000 government troops patrolling the streets, transport and mobile internet services suspended and religious worshippers prevented from gathering.

The measures weren't a response to a natural disaster or political crisis, however, but the sentencing of a flamboyant religious leader who claims to have more than 50 million followers.

The guru, who calls himself Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Ji Insan, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for raping two members of his sect.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh during a news conference in 2015.PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP - Getty Images

Tensions were already high after his conviction Friday prompted tens of thousands of his worshippers to stage violent protests.

On Twitter, his bio paints him as something of a jack of all trades — and a master of all of them. Described as a "spiritual saint," a "philanthropist," a "versatile singer" and an "allrounder sportsperson," his website goes even further, labeling him a "youth icon," a "superb medic" and a "emperor of melodies."

The guru is involved in 133 welfare initiatives, according to his website, covering everything from mass blood-donation camps to programs designed to help rape victims and end prostitution and drug addiction.

He also stars in his own film franchise: "MSG The Messenger," in which he stars as the eponymous "Messenger of God" in a story that claims to be "based on true events."

The third movie in the series was released last year and saw him receive more than 30 credits, including actor, director, cinematographer, editor, songwriter, and stuntman.

He has also gained a reputation as a bling-loving leader fond of colorful outfits to complement his luxuriant beard and twizzled moustache. However, he wields huge power and influence across India's religious and political spectrum.

Last week's unrest started in Sirsa near the Indian city of Chandigarh, which is the location of the sprawling headquarters of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect. It soon spread across the states of Haryana and Punjab, with followers burning government buildings and clashing with security forces and journalists. At least 38 people died and hundreds were injured.

Hoping to avoid a repeat of the violence, officials on Monday imposed tough restrictions in Sirsa and the town of Rohtak around 100 miles away, where the guru is being detained.

Security was tight on one of the roads leading to the Sunaria Jail where self-styled guru and spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was being held Monday.EPA

In a bid to stop the guru's followers from gathering, local governments have disabled mobile internet services across the region, canceled transport links, installed roadblocks and imposed a curfew.

Amid this tight security, a judge flew out to the jail to deliver the verdict in person. Few details were immediately available but the 50-year-old guru's lawyers can appeal the verdict in a higher court.

Local police have acknowledged these are "elaborate security arrangements" for the sentencing of just one man. But if the official response has been unusual, the self-styled guru at the center of the case is far from your average convict.

Although his claim of 50 million worshippers may be an exaggeration, Friday's conviction attracted an estimated 100,000 people outside the courthouse in Panchkula.

The guru can summon several times that number when he appears in a "darshan," a weekly audience at his ashram that sees followers weep, clap and flatten themselves to the ground at the sight of him, according to Reuters.

In 2015, the Indian Express newspaper named him among the most powerful 100 people in the country. He took over the sect at the age of 23 and describes it as a "non-profit organization."

The guru has attracted controversy after mocking Hindu and Sikh leaders, and Monday's sentencing for rape was not the only criminal investigation linked to him, according to the AP.

There's an ongoing trial over the murder of a journalist, and the guru is also under investigation over allegations of forcing several male followers to undergo castrations to bring them closer to God, according to the news agency. He has denied the accusations.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed.