Indian police is continuing an operation to arrest guru Rampal, after nearly 200 people were injured in clashes at his ashram in Haryana state on November 18.
The self-styled guru is wanted in connection with a 2006 murder case and for contempt of court.
Thousands of his supporters are protecting the Barwala town compound.
Police says armed supporters are holding people hostage and using women and children as human shields.
A week-long stand-off at the Satlok Ashram – some 105 miles north-east of Delhi – escalated on November 18 as police moved in to arrest Rampal.
Police fired tear gas and used bulldozers to try to break into the sprawling complex, while ashram members threw stones and other missiles and opened fire.
More than 100 policemen and 85 devotees of the guru sustained injuries, said police.
The unrest continued on Wednesday morning as several thousand policemen stood outside the ashram.
They have also cut off power and water supplies to the complex.
Reports say that some 60 devotees managed to slip out of the Satlok Ashram, but several hundred are reportedly still held up inside. Police say many are being held against their will.
Mani Ram, a devotee who managed to escape, told the Indian Express newspaper that ashram authorities had prevented them from leaving for two days, insisting police would kill them if they went outside.
A spokesperson for the ashram, Raj Kumar, was quoted as saying in the Indian Express newspaper that “innocent people have lost their lives” in the fighting and that “eight bodies were lying inside the ashram, of which four are women”.
However, Haryana police chief N Vashisth denied there had been any deaths, saying that “we have ensured that no innocent person is harmed, and so far no such casualty has come to our notice”.
Rampal is accused of involvement in a murder case dating from 2006 in which a man died in a clash at another of his ashrams.
He denies these allegations and is on bail, but authorities ordered his arrest on contempt charges after he failed to appear in court several times.
It remains unclear whether he is still inside the complex.
Police says he is, but Raj Kumar said he had already “been shifted out and is undergoing treatment in a private hospital outside the state”.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had set a final deadline for Rampal to appear in court on November 17 in the contempt case.
Rampal ignored the summons and his lawyers said he was too ill to make the 155-mile journey to the court in Chandigarh, which serves as the capital of both states.
The judges criticized the government, saying they “lacked the will” to arrest the guru and said he must be presented at court by November 21.
Rampal began his life as a junior engineer in the irrigation department in Haryana after picking up a diploma in engineering, according to his website.
Born in a farming family, Rampal was apparently of a “religious nature since his childhood”. He began giving talks to groups of people in 1994. Encouraged by a growing number of devotees, he set up the Satlok Ashram in 1999. The year after that Rampal resigned from his government job.
The guru now has tens of thousands of devotees in several Indian states who have “given up alcohol, marijuana, smoking, meat, egg, and social evils like idol worship… fasting etc, baseless reverences” after becoming his followers, his website says.
Rampal claims that “thousands of people have got their chronic illnesses cured” and “ruined families have become prosperous again” after coming in contact with him.
His website details a number of cases against the guru. They relate to allegedly fraudulent purchase of land, conflicts with some devotees and an alleged case of murder involving the death of a man at another ashram in Rohtak. They dismiss all of these cases as false and fabricated.
Rampal is a tech-savvy guru – his website contains live streaming discourses and offers downloads of a number of his religious books. The website also contains video entitled God has descended to Haryana.
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