NEW DELHI: Followers of a self-styled “godman” armed with clubs and stones defied rounds of teargas from Indian security forces today, preventing police from arresting the controversial guru who is wanted on murder charges.

Police failed to break through the human chain of men, women and children around the fortress-like, sprawling hermitage where the 63-year-old Satguru Rampalji Maharaj lives in the state of Haryana, 170 km (105 miles) northeast of New Delhi.

Several people were hurt in clashes around the compound, as Rampal’s supporters threw stones from the roof.

Some devotees leaving the buildings said they had been kept there against their will for days with little food or water.

“Our guru is a holy man. It is our duty to protect his life. We will kill and fight till we die to save him,” a devotee told Reuters TV.

Tensions rose last week after a judge ordered Rampal’s arrest in a 2006 murder case, in which he is accused of instructing his supporters to open fire on villagers, killing one and injuring six.

“We have court orders to arrest the guru but his followers are attacking the police from all directions. All our warnings have failed,” said police inspector Ramsharan Jadhav.

Rampal heads a sect that worships the 15th century Indian poet and mystic Kabir, who is known for a message of tolerance that is followed by people from different faiths.

-- Reuters