Controversial 'godman' Rampal still evades arrest; followers leave ashram

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Barwala (Haryana), Nov 19: Controversial sect leader Rampal continued to evade arrest even as hundreds of his followers left his ashram here in Haryana Wednesday morning.

Fearing stricter police action Wednesday after Tuesday's violent clashes between Rampal's supporters and security forces which left nearly 250 people, including 110 policemen, injured, the followers stranded inside the Satlok Ashram decided to leave.

Sant Rampal

District authorities said that over 10,000 people, who were inside the ashram complex for the past few days, started leaving the premises early Wednesday after a portion of a 20-foot high wall of the ashram complex was brought down.

"We have provided transportation to such people to help them reach bus stands and railway station in Barwala, Hisar and Hansi," a district official told IANS.

Police officials said that hundreds of supporters of Rampal were still holed up inside the 12-acre ashram complex. Though the ashram management claimed that Rampal was not inside the complex, Haryana Director General of Police (DGP) S.N. Vashisht said that Rampal was hiding inside.

Most of the followers of the self-styled godman said they were forced to stay inside the ashram by volunteers and the private commando force of the sect leader.

The police have booked Rampal, who is already facing charges of murder, inciting mobs and contempt of court, for sedition.

Supporters of Rampal had clashed with security forces Tuesday to prevent them from entering the ashram premises.

The area around the ashram resembled a battlefield as sect supporters resisted the police action.

Sect followers fired openly at the police, lobbed petrol bombs and acid pouches, besides hurling stones and bricks outside the ashram in Haryana's Hisar district, 210 km from Chandigarh, clearly indicating that the sect was well-prepared to resist security forces.

Several media persons covering the stand-off and clash were injured when the police carried out an unprovoked attack on them. The cameras of many journalists were broken.

Hundreds of Rampal followers, including women and children, camped outside his ashram for nearly a fortnight in a bid to prevent security forces from entering the complex.

The sect leader has been avoiding arrest and has failed to appear before the Punjab and Haryana High Court although non-bailable warrants were issued against him Nov 5.

Rampal's supporters had indulged in vandalism in a court in Hisar in July this year when he was going there in connection with a 2006 murder conspiracy case. The high court took suo motu notice of the incident and summoned Rampal.

IANS

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