November 21, 2014


[Postmortem examinations on the victims showed that two of them, both women, had broken ribs, though they appeared to have died from a pre-existing illness, said a medical official from the area, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.]

Baba Rampal Maharaj, 63, who claims to be the reincarnation of a 15th-century 
mystic poet,was brought to court in Chandigarh, in northern India, on Thursday.
NEW DELHI — The police on Friday began questioning a self-styled Indian “godman” who was seized after security forces stormed his compound in northern India, where he had barricaded himself with about 15,000 followers for more than a week. An extensive cache of weapons was found inside, the police said.
The guru, Baba Rampal Maharaj, 63, who claims to be the reincarnation of a 15th-century mystic poet, was arrested on Wednesday after a violent clash at his 12-acre compound in the city of Barwala in Haryana State. His supporters, lining the ramparts, pelted police officers with stones as they tried to enter, at one point using a bulldozer to break down a wall.
Scores were injured, and six of Mr. Rampal’s followers died under uncertain circumstances during the standoff.
Mr. Rampal had repeatedly resisted summonses to respond to charges of murder and incitement to violence dating to 2006. His defense lawyer, who appeared in High Court in Chandigarh, the state capital, on Thursday, argued that Mr. Rampal had been unable to appear earlier because he was being held hostage inside his compound, or ashram. Mr. Rampal told reporters that allegations that thousands of people had been kept at the ashram against their will were false.
“I never used women and children as hostages,” he told reporters.
The police have registered two cases of murder based on complaints from family members and are investigating what caused the six deaths, said Anil Kumar Rao, the inspector general of the police in the Hisar District, which includes Barwala.
Postmortem examinations on the victims showed that two of them, both women, had broken ribs, though they appeared to have died from a pre-existing illness, said a medical official from the area, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
Mr. Rao said searches of the compound had uncovered an extensive arsenal, including homemade bombs and firearms.
Since Mr. Rampal’s arrest, journalists have roamed through the guru’s vast compound, where he would deliver sermons in a hall the size of two football fields, and bless followers across a barrier of bulletproof glass from a brocade-covered chair known as the throne. The police told reporters that the chair was attached to a hydraulic lift that enabled him to rise up from the basement, seemingly from nowhere, to the wonderment of his followers.
As they exited the ashram, some followers described eccentric forms of veneration that were practiced inside. Two men told The Indian Express, a daily newspaper, that during his meditations, Mr. Rampal was bathed in milk, which was later collected and used to prepare kheer, a kind of rice pudding, which was then fed to his followers. “The fruit of his meditation is present in the kheer,” a man who identified himself as Krishnan told the newspaper.
The police said the guru lived in a five-story house with “granite tiles, marble floorings, fancy grills, strong doors, well-equipped bathrooms with modern fittings, split air-conditioners, flat-screen TVs and even massage beds,” according to IANS, a news service.
Gurus and mystics can be found throughout India, whose ashrams often include hospitals and schools within their walls. Many of them cultivate relationships with political leaders, who use them to mobilize voters during elections, and attract wealthy and influential patrons.

Hari Kumar contributed reporting.

@ The New York Times

Indian father gave daughter huge collection of gold jewellery for wedding
He also wore gold chains worth tens of thousands of pounds at ceremony 
Police sent officers to wedding ensure pair weren't attacked and robbed
Conspicuous display was branded 'crass' and 'shocking' on social media 
India is one of the world's poorest countries with millions living in poverty 

Flaunting her wealth: The unnamed bride's £400,000 jewellery 
collection was widely condemned on social media, with 
people branding it both crass and shocking
An Indian sweet maker made sure his daughter truly was the golden girl on her wedding day by covering her in gold jewellery worth more than £400,000.
The wedding took place in the holy city of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh state, with the father of the bride - whose name has not been released - almost upstaging his daughter by showing off his own huge collection of his own gold chains.
So conspicuous was the pair's flaunting of their wealth that the local police force sent a guard of  officers to the wedding to ensure they weren't attacked and robbed as the wedding party travelled through poverty-stricken neighbourhoods on their way to and from the ceremony.
Police spokesman Sandeep Kumar in Tirupati - a holy city known for its famous temple of Lord Vishnu - confirmed that the man and his daughter had worn gold jewellery throughout the ceremony.
'It is not a crime to wear such a large amount of gold, but there could have been a crime once people heard about it. We just wanted to make sure there were no problems in advance,' he said. 
The father of the bride reportedly made his millions from selling confectionery in India's southern Andhra Pradesh state. Neither his nor his daughter's names have been made public.
The move was widely condemned on social media sites once the images from a mobile phone was shared, with people branding it both crass and shocking.
Others said the pair should be humiliated by so an unapologetic display of wealth in a country where millions of families struggle to find enough money to feed themselves every day.
Indians are one of the world's largest consumers of gold, with wealthy families often spending tens of thousands of pounds jewellery to wear at weddings and other special occasions. 
Recently several wealthy Indians have been seen sporting shirts made out of solid gold thread.
In August Pankaj Parakh, a politician and the owner of a textile business near Mumbai, treated himself to a shirt made out of solid gold for his 45th birthday.
Weighing four kilos and costing £127,000, the shirt was 18-22 carat purity and took a team of 20 people 3,200 hours to create.
'Gold always fascinated me since I was five years old and studying in school. Over the years, I have become passionate about this royal metal.' Mr Parakh said.

'Yet, for my marriage 23 years ago, many guests considered me an embarrassment as I sported more gold than the bride,' he added.