Indian TV comedian arrested for 'offensive' guru act

NEW DELHI - Indian police have arrested a popular comedian for offending religious sentiments after he mimicked a controversial spiritual guru on a television show, an official said Wednesday.

Kiku Sharda, 40, was sent to judicial custody for 14 days by a court in northern Haryana state after he was arrested in Mumbai late Tuesday, a senior police officer told AFP.

"A police team arrested the accused at a TV studio in Mumbai late last night following a complaint filed by one of the guru's followers," he said on the condition of anonymity.

Sharda, who imitated guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a TV appearance on December 27, has apologised for his act, saying it was only aimed at entertaining audiences.

"I was given a dress, a script to read and directed to act," he was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

Singh, who heads the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, is known as the "guru in bling" for his penchant for garish clothes and jewellery.

Dera Sacha Sauda describes itself as a social welfare and spiritual organisation with millions of followers in India and abroad.

The 48-year-old guru is already under police investigation for allegedly encouraging 400 followers to undergo castrations at his ashram so they could get closer to God.

On its website, the group describes Singh as a saint as well as an author, inventor, scientist, philosopher, philanthropist, peace activist and "the ultimate humanitarian".

Singh has also featured in two action movies and many music videos. Many celebrities came out in support of Sharda on Twitter Wednesday, calling his arrest "shocking" and "absurd".

"I don't see our leaders getting arrested for behaving like comedians everyday," tweeted fellow comedian Vir Das.