Two persons,including a woman,were feared dead and more than 120 persons injured in a clash between the followers of Arya Samaj and the police in Haryanas Rohtak district on Sunday.
Violence erupted twice in the day with at least three Haryana Roadways buses,one ambulance,a liquor vend and several vehicles torched in the arson in the morning. In the evening,a hotel was set afire. The police have arrested more than 10 persons,including Arya Samaj leader Acharya Baldev.
Satlok Ashram,located on the outskirts of Karontha village on National Highway 71 (Rohtak-Jhajjar highway),was at the centre of a commotion on Sunday morning.
The ashram is headed by controversial dera head Rampal. The ashrams chief and his followers have been criticising the Arya Samaj and its ideologies through their various publications. Arya Samaj followers and villagers,in turn,have sharply reacted to this criticism. In 2006,a similar clash between the ashram and Arya Samaj followers led to the death of a youth. Rampal was then arrested on murder charges. He was released on bail in 2008.
Citing religious intolerance,the followers of Arya Samaj petitioned against the dera chief. The matter reached the Supreme Court about two months ago. The SC ruled in favour of Rampal and ordered maintaining status quo regarding the ashram.
In the wake of the SCs order,followers of Arya Samaj on Sunday organised a mahapanchayat in Karontha. With the alleged motive of forcibly getting the premises vacated,a large number of villagers and Arya Samaj followers marched towards it. They were stopped by Haryana Police personnel,who repeatedly warned protesters not to cross the barricades. According to the police,the mob went on a rampage and torched buses and damaged private vehicles. When the police fired teargas shells and resorted to cane charge,the mob threw petrol-bombs at them. Police officials alleged that the mob then opened fire,forcing the police force to retaliate.
Rohtak SP Vivek Sharma said,We have registered a criminal case against various people for violating law and order. We had issued numerous appeals asking people not to breach law and order. The court has ordered a status quo on the ashram,following which police personnel were deployed around it. But Arya Samaj followers and villagers indulged in breach of peace. Three roadways buses,one ambulance and a liquor vend,besides private vehicles were torched by them. The agitated mob also opened gunfire on police and pelted stones leaving 61 policemen injured. A few police and district administration officials,including DSP Narender and a tehsildar,are in critical condition. Even women cops were not spared. We are in the process of identifying all those who created the ruckus and will arrest them.
The situation continued to be tense with the followers of Arya Samaj maintaining that they would not let the ashram function in the village,even as a large number of Satlok Ashram followers camped inside the premises. In the evening,as the protesters torched the hotel of the sarpanch,who had reportedly appealed for peace,five companies of the CRPF were deployed in the area.
Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has ordered a magisterial probe into the violence; Rohtak ADC will conduct the investigation.