Indian police said they 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 in a statement late Wednesday Rahim is being investigated for criminal intimidation and causing grievous bodily hurt, saying 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 along with claims of sexually exploiting female followers.
The latest case was filed after one of his devotees, 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," Chauhan's lawyer, Navkiran Singh, told AFP on Thursday.
"We will put all the facts of the case to the court and seek compensation for the victims."
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 undergo an investigation into the alleged castrations.
Forty-seven-year-old Rahim could not immediately be contacted for comment.
The Dera Sacha Sauda says it is a social welfare and spiritual organisation with millions of followers in India and abroad.
On its website, the group describes Rahim as a saint as well as an author, inventor, scientist, philosopher, philanthropist, peace activist and "the ultimate humanitarian".
Rahim 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 who are mostly Hindu ascetics claiming to possess mystical powers.
In November, police arrested Baba Rampal Maharaj after a long and violent siege at his ashram in Haryana 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 in Punjab state to preserve his body in a freezer, insisting he is only meditating.
For many Indians, gurus play an integral role in daily life. They say they offer a pathway to enlightenment in return for spiritual devotion and often give donations to ashrams, temples and charity projects.