A court in Haryana’s Hisar on Thursday found religious leader Rampal Dass guilty in two murder cases, ANI reported. The court will announce the quantum of punishment on October 16 and 17.

The court of Additional District and Sessions Judge DR Chalia announced the verdict. The special court was held inside Hisar’s Central Jail 1 and the judgement pronounced via video conference, The Indian Express reported.

The final arguments in the cases against Dass, head of the Satlok Ashram in Barwala, and 27 of his followers were completed on Monday, reported the Hindustan Times. Dass, lodged in Hisar’s Central Jail 2, was charged with murder, attempt to murder, sedition, rioting and illegal detention. He heads a sect that worships the 15th-century poet and mystic Kabir, who is known for his messages of tolerance.

The cases were lodged on the basis of complaints of two men whose wives were in Dass’ ashram in November 2014, when 15,000 of his followers formed a human shield around the religious leader to stop the police from arresting him. The police were looking to arrest Dass for ignoring 43 court summons in connection with an incident from 2006, when his supporters allegedly opened fire on villagers in Rohtak, killing one person and injuring several. Dass was charged with murder and he spent 22 months in prison till 2008.

After several days of standoff, the state government cut off power and water supply to the ashram, setting the stage for an operation by the state police. However, Dass’ supporters retaliated by hurling stones and acid at the police. Five women and a baby died during the siege, and more than 200 people were injured. The police then arrested the religious leader. A few devotees later alleged that they had been held hostage inside the ashram, including the two women whose husbands filed the cases.

Heavy police deployment

Anticipating violence, the Haryana administration deployed more than 2,000 police personnel on Thursday to maintain law and order in Hisar district and its surrounding areas, reported ANI. Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which prohibits the assembly of four persons or more, has been in force across Hisar since Monday, said District Collector Ashok Kumar Meena.

Although no followers of Dass entered Hisar on Wednesday, they were expected to arrive on Thursday. Thus, trains from various parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana were prohibited from entering Hisar on Thursday, ANI reported.

The administration has formed teams under 27 sub-divisional magistrates and 40 deputy superintendent of police to ensure law and order. Meena, Inspector General of Police (Hisar range) Sanjay Kumar and Hisar Superintendent of Police Shiv Charan will monitor the situation.