Pressure mounts on ‘godman’, sedition charges slapped


Pressure mounts on 'godman', sedition charges slappedBARWALA/CHANDIGARH: Ruling out any talks with ‘godman’ Rampal, authorities today mounted pressure on him as sedition and other serious charges were slapped against him and several of his followers while bodies of four women were found in the ashram here in Haryana, a day after clashes.

Haryana Director General of Police S N Vashisht today said Rampal is still inside the ashram and asserted that police will continue its “operation” till he is arrested for production before Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday in a contempt case.

He said the authorities of the ashram in Barwala in Hisar district have handed over bodies of four women and two sick persons, including an infant, who also died in a hospital later. The cause of their death will be investigated.

The vicinity of the ashram looked like a war-zone, a day after clashes between police and ‘private army’ of Rampal’s supporters, who allegedly indulged in firing and throwing petrol bombs at security personnel.

About 15,000 followers of Rampal were holed up in the ashram, out of which 10,000 have been evacuated, the DGP said.

Many of those who left the ashram narrated how they were prevented from leaving by the ‘godman’s ‘private army’.

“There is no possibility of negotiations… There is not even any plan… He is accused of serious crimes. My suggestion to him is that he should surrender before the law,” Vashisht said while addressing a press conference in Chandigarh.

Police registered fresh cases last night against Rampal, ashram spokesman Raj Kapoor, another key functionary Purshottam Dass and several other followers under various Sections of the IPC.

The cases have been filed under Sections 121 (waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India), 121A (conspiring to commit certain offences against the state) and 122 (Collecting arms etc. with the intention of waging war against the Govt of India). .
Besides, the cases have also been slapped against the accused under Sections 123 (concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war) and other charges that include attempt to murder, assault and under various Sections of the Arms Act, police said.

The fresh cases were filed after clashes broke out at the ashram between police and Rampal’s supporters, who allegedly resorted to firing and threw petrol bombs.

Rampal is already an accused in a murder case.

Earlier this week, Punjab and Haryana High Court gave the government time till Friday to produce Rampal in contempt of court case, after which authorities have been asking the devotees in and around the Satlok Ashram to disperse and help them comply with court order.

About the deaths, the DGP said there were no wounds on the bodies of the four women. The police was not sure under what circumstances they had passed away and police will investigate all deaths to ascertain the cause, he said.

“Post-mortem examination of the bodies will be conducted to ascertain the exact cause behind their deaths,” he said.

The infant belonged to Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh.

The DGP said nearly 270 of Rampal’s supporters, including 20 key functionaries of his ashram, besides 250 members of his ‘private army’ have been detained after the fresh charges, including that of rioting, were invoked.

After investigation, those found involved will be put under arrest, he added.

“As the investigation progresses, further charges would be added on the basis of evidence that comes to the fore against them,” he said.

He said the operation had been temporarily halted last night to allow more followers to come out of the ashram.

“So far, as many as 10,000 followers have come out. We believe nearly 5,000 followers are still inside. These followers include women, children and very old persons as well. Most of them hail from places like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

“We are committed to protecting the lives of innocents.

Therefore, we are not setting any deadline for this operation as our over-riding priority is to save the lives of innocents,” said the DGP, who was flanked by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) P K Mahapatra and Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Sanjeev Kaushal.

He said so far the security personnel have not entered the ashram and denied that there had been any delay or laxity on part of the police.–PTI