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A Hindu holy man meditates on the banks of the holy Ganges River in Varanasi.

India is a mecca for people seeking spiritual gurus, but instead of reaching enlightenment, some devotees become victims of horrific crimes.

Behind the scenes: There are tens of thousands of gurus across the country, many spearheading charitable programs that benefit their communities. But there has also been a spate of criminal cases against powerful gurus, including one of the country's most powerful: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. An Al Jazeera investigation reveals a seedy world of sexual abuse and accusations of murder and mass castration within the walls of his ashram.

Anshul Chhatrapati  says his father, a journalist, was murdered after publishing a letter in his newspaper that accused Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of rape. For the past 11 years, the Central Bureau of Investigation has assigned Anshul an armed bodyguard.

“What more can they do to us? There’s nothing more valuable than life, and that they’ve already taken.”
— Anshul Chhatrapati

Singh, who has been convicted of sexually assaulting two female followers, denies the allegations against him. His spokesman, Prakash Singh Salwara, says: “I never saw anything that indicated that a crime had been committed."

Go deeper: Watch the full report from Al Jazeera's 101 East.

Go deeper

Coronavirus hospitalizations top 100,000 for the first time

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking ProjectHarvard Global Health Institute; Cartogram: Danielle Alberti and Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 100,000 Americans are now in the hospital with coronavirus infections — a new record, an indication that the pandemic is continuing to get worse and a reminder that the virus is still very dangerous.

Why it matters: Hospitalizations are a way to measure severe illnesses — and severe illnesses are on the rise across the U.S. In some areas, health systems and health care workers are already overwhelmed, and outbreaks are only getting worse.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
22 mins ago - Economy & Business

Our make-believe economy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Federal Reserve and global central banks are remaking the world's economy in an effort to save it, but have created something of a monster.

Why it matters: The Fed-driven economy relies on the creation of trillions of dollars — literally out of thin air — that are used to purchase bonds and push money into a pandemic-ravaged economy that has long been dependent on free cash and is only growing more addicted.

New hope for "smart cities"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's time to polish our gleaming vision of urban environments where internet technology makes everything from finding a parking space to measuring air quality a snap.

Why it matters: The Biden administration's Cabinet appointees are likely to be champions of bold futurism in urban planning — which could mean that smart infrastructure projects, like broadband deployment and digital city services, get fresh funding and momentum.

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