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Ram Rahim Singh's supporters riot after rape conviction

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 25/08/2017
More than 15,000 Indian police and soldiers were patrolling Panchkula amid fears of violence [Altaf Qadri/AP] © Provided by Al Jazeera More than 15,000 Indian police and soldiers were patrolling Panchkula amid fears of violence [Altaf Qadri/AP]

At least four people have been killed in Indian towns as violent protests erupted after a court convicted a self-styled "godman" of raping two female followers, police said.

Friday's verdict angered thousands of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's supporters who said he was innocent.

Singh was found guilty 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, soon after the verdict was announced, witnesses said.

More than 15,000 Indian police and soldiers patrolled Panchkula, the town where the court gave its verdict on Singh.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters.

A police spokesman told the AFP news agency that at least four people were killed in the violence. 

Scores more were injured.

A curfew was imposed in three districts in Punjab which are strongholds of the Dera Sacha Sauda group.

"There has been violence in some towns in Punjab, we are taking all measures to maintain peace," said the state chief minister Amarinder Singh.

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