Violent clashes broke out at the Satlok ashram of controversial “godman” Rampal here on Tuesday, with police lobbing teargas shells and resorting to lathicharge to disperse his supporters who allegedly fired back. Over 100 people, including security and media personnel, have been injured.
Tension mounted as his supporters refused to allow the police to enter the premises to arrest Rampal, against whom the Punjab and Haryana High Court issued a fresh non-bailable warrant on Monday. The court has set Friday as the deadline for producing Rampal before it in a contempt case.
Haryana DGP S N Vashisht said security personnel were exercising maximum restraint as the lives of women and children, allegedly being used as “human shields”, were involved.
Police and paramilitary forces lobbed teargas shells and used batons and water cannons to disperse Rampal’s supporters, who allegedly fired back, pelted stones and hurled “petrol bombs” at them.
Police said many security personnel have been injured in the violence. The DGP said two policemen suffered bullet injuries, one in the neck and another in the leg.
Asked about injuries to mediapersons, he said, “It has been brought to my notice that some have been injured in the ensuing melee or the stone- pelting…I assure you that the matter will be investigated.”
A JCB machine was set on fire by the miscreants inside the ashram as the security personnel attempted to break the third wall of the 50-feet high boundary wall surrounding the huge building. Although they managed to break a 20-feet long boundary wall of the ashram, police had to suspend the operation midway apprehending a blast because of the underground LPG dump at the site.
There were conflicting reports about Rampal’s whereabouts. Earlier, ashram spokesman Raj Kapoor said Rampal was “unwell” and was being treated at an “undisclosed location”. But the DGP said as per their information, Rampal was “still inside the ashram”.
Asked about delay on the part of the police to arrest Rampal, the DGP said: “One has to understand that we are facing a very hostile group inside the ashram. We know that there are women and children in numbers inside the ashram, and even babies, some just one-year-old. We have overriding priority to save the innocent lives”.
He added: “We are committed to carrying out the directions of the High Court, and at the same time using minimum force and avoiding casualties.”
The 63-year-old “godman” was to appear before the court on Monday, but he failed to do so, with his counsel saying he was “unwell”. However, the ashram spokesman said, “Sant Rampal is not running away from law. We have already said that he will present himself before the court as soon as his health improves. But authorities can’t use force to hunt him down”.
Rampal has cited health reasons for not appearing before the High Court on November 5 and 10.
(With PTI inputs)