Godman Rampal Dass is lodged in jail ever since he was arrested by the Haryana police from his Satlok Ashram near Hisar for not appearing before the Punjab and Haryana High Court in November 2014. Still, on his call, thousands of his devotees thronged the pandal spread in over 50 acres of land in Rohtak to celebrate Sant Kabir Dass Jayanti on Friday despite scorching heat.
His followers are mostly from scheduled castes and backward classes from the Hindi heartland and Nepal.
It was biggest Rampal’s show after arrest following a tense standoff between police and his 250 “commandos” deployed to protect his fort-like Satlok Ashram, which had 20,000 followers inside. Rampal is currently lodged in Hisar jail on murder charge after as six of his followers died because of suffocation in the ashram.
Friday’s function started with a recorded speech of Rampal in which he explained about the life of Sant Kabir. Unlike the political rallies, there were only few policemen near the venue to regulate traffic. The disciplined devotees were guided by hundreds of volunteers.
Leaders of Akhil Bhartiya Jat Aarakshan Sanghrash Samiti (AIJASS) and khaps also attended the event, in an apparent return of favour since thousands of Rampal supporters had not only attended Jats dharnas but had also given a financial support of Rs 16 lakh to the agitators at two dharnas during quota stir in February.
“Let farmers, Jats and followers of Sant Rampal join hands and hold a big rally in Delhi with 50 lakh participants,” said Ashok Balhara, Haryana unit in-charge of AIJASS, while addressing the event. “Jats have sympathy for Rampal supporters ever since they supported Jat reservation agitation a few months back. We will be ready to support Rampal if called for the same,” said Balhara.
A local leader of AIJASS, Sombir Jassia, who was earlier booked for objectionable comments against the Prime Minister, announced to donate 5.5 acres of land for Rampal’s religious body.
But most of his followers had nothing to do with the politics. “Sant Rampal is our God,” said Juggu, 75, who is from Gadariya community and a resident of Churbura village of Banda district in Uttar Pradesh. Savitri Bai from Indore was here since Wednesday to work as a volunteer. Deepak Dass (19), who came from Doha village of Rewa district in Madhya Pradesh, said, “My father was a chronic patient of pain in stomach. After we became followers of Sant Rampal in 2014, his pain disappeared. We got sweet water in our tubewell in our farm land.”
Sweety Ahlawat, a resident of Rohtak and a Master of Computer Applications (MCA), said, “No dowry was given in my marriage because of teachings of Sant Rampal.” A government school teacher from Delhi, Divya Hooda, said, “My father left liquor and smoking after we joined the sect.”
Arya Samaj had been opposing any permission for the event. Sant Rampal Dass-led Bandi Chhor Mukti Trust and Arya Pratinidhi Sabha have been fighting over Rampal’s Karontha Ashram in Rohtak district.