NEW DELHI - Indian police are investigating a popular self-styled godman for allegedly encouraging 400 followers to undergo castrations at his ashram, so they could get closer to God.
The country's top crime-fighting agency has registered a case against Gurmeet Ram Rahim, known as the "guru in bling" for his penchant for garish clothes and jewellery, over the operations in the country's north.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said on Wednesday that Rahim is being investigated for criminal intimidation and causing grievous bodily hurt; 400 castrations were allegedly carried out.
The guru, who heads the Dera Sacha Sauda organisation based in Haryana state, is already facing trial for conspiracy over the murder of a journalist in 2002. He also allegedly sexually exploited female followers.
The latest case was filed after one of his devotees, Mr Hans Raj Chauhan, lodged a complaint in court alleging he was manipulated into having the "painful" operation at the ashram.
"They were told that only those who get castrated will be able to meet God," Mr Chauhan's lawyer Navkiran Singhsaid yesterday. He said doctors carried out the castrations over a period from 2000, but for years, his client had been too scared to come forward. The court asked the CBI to open an investigation into the alleged castrations.
The Dera Sacha Sauda says it is a social welfare and spiritual organisation with millions of followers in India and abroad.
Rahim, 47, also stars in an action movie, to be released later this month, called MSG: Messenger Of God, in which the guru fights criminals, sings songs and is shown dousing himself in water in slow motion after a rugby game.
India has been rocked by numerous scandals involving popular godmen claiming to have mystical powers. In November, police arrested Baba Rampal Maharaj after a long, violent siege at his ashram when he refused to comply with court orders in a murder case. In a bizarre case, devotees of a dead guru are fighting a court battle to preserve his body in a freezer, insisting he is only meditating.