Bharatiya Janata Party MP Sakshi Maharaj on Friday appeared to back the thousands of followers of self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, when he said that the supporters are being ignored, and that only one person, who had filed the case, was against him. “I respect the judiciary but I want to say that crores of people are supporting Ram Rahim, and only one person is complaining against him. Is one person right or are crores of people right?” he said, according to India Today.

He even alleged that such cases against religious or spiritual leaders are part of a conspiracy to malign “Hindu culture”, India Today reported.

Maharaj’s remarks came after 29 people have died in violence the day a court convicted Singh in a rape case. Parts of Punjab and Haryana have been shut down because of the riots, while the Dera Sacha Sauda chief is in jail in Rohtak, Haryana. Maharaj added that if the situation worsens, it should not be the state but the court that is held responsible for more violence. The BJP is in power in Haryana, where the verdict was announced on Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other leaders have asked for peace in the region. Modi tweeted, saying the situation was “deeply distressing” and condemned the violence. He said he has asked officials to work “round the clock” to handle the violence and that he has reviewed the situation with the home secretary and national security adviser.

Other BJP reactions

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar attributed the violence to certain “anti-social” elements, without expressly naming Ram Rahim’s followers, while Rakesh Sinha refused to comment. Sinha said he withheld his opinion because he did not want to “hurt the sentiments of any state”. Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani has blamed the media for “causing panic” and distress.