-Sarita Srivastava, Badarpur
The first time Shiv Pal Srivastava went to Barwala was two years ago, to be cured of “demonic possession”. After that, he went back almost every month to seek Rampal’s blessings. The last time, his family returned with the body of his wife, Sarita, killed in a stampede.
Srivastava is a tailor who has built a two-storey house at Mithapur in Badarpur on the outskirts of Delhi. His family now comprises a daughter aged 13 and two sons, 11 and 3.
The family does not hold Rampal responsible. Their daughter, Shubham, tells her brothers to cheer up. “It’s a bad time for us but we will face it. I still love the ashram. Why hold it responsible? I will continue to go there,” she says.
In 2012, Srivastava says, his eyes would turn red, he would run a fever and blabber “in a strange voice”. “I had seen Baba Rampal’s shows on TV and read his book Gyan Ganga. I visited his ashram and immediately got relief. His ways are unique. He would give sermons and then give the patient a mantra to recite daily. After that, he would give a darshan and bless us,” he said.
The family left for Barwala last week for a satsang. “I was supposed to return on the 10th. Baba provides conveyance to all followers until Jind station.
But when we tried to step out, ashram residents said it was cordoned and told us not to go out as our lives would be at risk,” he says.
He describes the teargas shelling of Monday night and the ashram walls being razed by bulldozers, leading to a stampede. “At 7 pm, I heard an announcement of a woman having been killed. I went to the medical room and found it was my wife.” He brought the body to Delhi in an ambulance arranged by the administration.
-Malkiat Kaur, Sangrur
Malkiat Kaur, 50, of Sherpur, Sangrur had been visiting the ashram for six or seven months for treatment for asthma. The visit on November 12 proved her last. “We were trapped inside and when police burst teargas shells, it suffocated my asthmatic wife,” said her husband, Jarnail Singh.
“I could do nothing to save her. Our faith in the Baba is totally shaken.”
Jarnail said Malkiat visited the ashram once or twice a month for medicine. “It was not right of the ashram commandos not to let the people come out. The public were made hostages.”
Though he is upset with the ashram for causing Malkiat’s death, he said the medicine did help. Malkiat is survived by three daughters and two sons.