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Indian Holy Man Arrested Following Clashes at Ashram

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Updated: | Originally published: ;

A self-proclaimed Indian spiritual guru was arrested Wednesday, putting an end to his protracted efforts to evade the police during which six people died and nearly 200 were injured.

Sixty-three-year-old Sant Rampal was taken into police custody late Wednesday night at his 12-acre ashram near Hisar in the north Indian state of Haryana, the BBC reported.

Rampal, who has ignored 43 court summonses since 2010 citing ill health, was taken to the nearby district of Panchkula and medically examined before being locked up. “We have examined him and his condition, including his blood pressure, is stable,” one of the doctors told the Times of India.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court canceled the religious leader’s bail in a previous murder case on Thursday morning, the Times reported.

Rampal is accused of inciting his followers to open fire on a village in 2006, an incident in which one man died.

A weeklong effort by local police to apprehend him reached a climax on Tuesday, when thousands of his supporters reportedly attacked police surrounding the ashram with acid, petrol bombs and guns while Rampal remained holed up inside.

Four women were found dead at the ashram on Wednesday as thousands of supporters fled the premises, while another woman and an 18-month-old child died later at a hospital.

The “god-man” expressed remorse for the casualties, but denied allegations that he used his followers as a line of defense. “I am sorry about the deaths of my followers, but I didn’t use any as a human shield,” news channel NDTV quoted him as saying at the hospital.

Rampal, who has been charged with sedition along with several supporters, appeared in court Thursday afternoon and was remanded to judicial custody until Nov. 28.

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Write to Rishi Iyengar at rishi.iyengar@timeasia.com