In more trouble for arrested ‘godman’ Sant Rampal, the Haryana Police charged him with murder on Thursday, a day after six people — five women and a child — were reported to have died at his Satlok ashram in Barwala. According to the post mortem reports, which have been accessed by The Indian Express, at least four women suffered blunt trauma injuries — two women had broken ribs while two others had injuries on their lower limbs.
The reports said that five of the victims had died 24-36 hours before the autopsies were conducted on Wednesday afternoon. The sixth victim, Rajni, 25, died almost immediately after reaching the Maharaja Agrasen Medical College (MAMC) in Agroha on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, Rampal was on Thursday produced before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which cancelled his bail and sent him to custody.
While the police said on Wednesday that no external injury marks were visible on the six bodies, post mortem reports said that barring Rajni and 18-month-old Adarsh, the other four women had suffered blunt injuries and abrasions. Doctors at MAMC said while the injuries may not have caused the deaths, they seemed to indicate “a scuffle or stampede inside”.
According to the post mortem reports:
* Santosh, 45, a resident of Bhagwatipur in Rohtak, suffered “blunt injury” to the chest, leaving her with three fractured ribs.
* Malkeet Kaur, 50, from Sangrur district in Punjab, had “small external injuries” and “abrasions on lower limb”.
* Raj Bala, 70, from Nagina area of Bijnor district, suffered four broken ribs on the right side.
* Sarita Pal Srivastava, 31, a resident of New Delhi, had “external blunt injuries on forehead and lower limbs”.
“At the time that these injuries occurred, the police weren’t inside the ashram. Breaking ribs requires significant force… It needs to be investigated whether these women were beaten up,” said a senior doctor on condition of anonymity.
Haryana DGP S N Vashisht said, “Though there were no external injuries, we suspect foul play in the deaths. Two murder cases have been registered against Rampal, based on the complaints of families of two of the victims, Santosh and Raj Bala. During post mortem, rib fractures were detected… The cases need thorough investigation.”
While “chemical analysis and histopathology examination” will determine the exact cause of the deaths, doctors said the fifth woman, Rajni, a resident of Lalitpur in Uttar Pradesh, had “no external injuries”. “Her symptoms were consistent with heart failiure, a detailed analysis of her viscera will reveal more. It seems that she was undergoing treatment for her heart problems at the ashram. Her failing health seems to have triggered the ashram’s decision to send the other five bodies to the hospital,” said the senior doctor.
“Technically she died at the hospital, but she may as well have been brought dead. She had severe chest pain, shortness of breath — all signs that point to a heart attack,” he said.
“It seems that one of the women was suffering from asthma. During the standoff, tear gas shells were fired, and this may have caused respiratory complications that led to her death,” said the doctor, while refusing to identify the victim.
The child, Adarsh, had come to the ashram from Gurh in Madhya Pradesh. “He seems to have been suffering from jaundice,” said a doctor. The post mortem report notes that his body was “highly emaciated”.
Meanwhile, the Haryana Police finally entered the ashram on Thursday evening. “The last lot of around 4,000 followers, including 1,500 women, were evacuated from the ashram today. The ashram is totally empty now,” said DGP Vashisht.
A Special Investigation Team has been set up. “The SIT has been entrusted with the task of conducting a thorough search of the entire ashram. Since the ashram is spread out over an area of about 12 acres, it may take a couple of days for us to complete the search,” said Vashisht.
The police have arrested 459 people so far. All of them have been booked on charges of rioting, criminal conspiracy, assaulting police personnel, wrongful confinement of followers inside the ashram, attempt to murder and preventing government servants from performing official duties, besides various other sections of the IPC.
Police have also arrested Baljit, who was considered the second-in-command in the ashram after Rampal. “We have arrested Baljit and his daughter, Babita. We recovered a laptop, six cellphones, 10 hard disks, 17 CDs, three telephone diaries and five files from Babita. All these seizures are being scrutinised by our teams,” said Vashisht.