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Medical staff care for an injured supporter of ‘godman’ Rampal at a hospital in Hisar, Haryana, on Tuesday.

200 hurt in violence at godman’s ashram

PTI
BARWALA (HISAR): Violent clashes broke out at the Satlok Ashram of self-styled ‘godman’ Rampal here in Haryana leaving over 200 persons, including security and media personnel, injured, as efforts to arrest him were met with stiff resistance by his supporters who allegedly fired at the police and lobbed ‘petrol bombs’.
Three FIRs have been slapped against Rampal and his supporters, state DGP S N Vashisht told reporters in Chandigarh.
The police lobbed teargas shells and resorted to lathicharge to disperse Rampal’s supporters who allegedly fired back, leaving over 200 persons, including over 100 policemen, followers and several media personnel, injured.
Tension mounted as supporters of Rampal refused to heed to repeated announcements by the police over loudspeakers to allow them to enter the premises to
arrest him.
The DGP said firing had taken place from inside the ashram from where people pelted stones, hurled petrol bombs and acid bottles at the security personnel.
Two policemen suffered bullet wounds. One woman sustained serious burn injuries and it remained unclear how she sustained these, the DGP said.
He said police operations would continue till Rampal, who is “definitely” holed up inside the ashram, is brought out, and produced before the Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh, which has issued a fresh non-bailable warrant against him in a contempt case.
The FIRs have been slapped against Rampal as he has been held responsible for the violence and injuries to dozens and putting innocent lives at stake, he said.
Two other FIRs have also been registered, he said. One is in connection with the failed self-immolation attempt by 50 followers by pouring diesel on them which was foiled by using water cannons.
The other is against Rampal and others for keeping followers hostage inside the ashram.
The entire operation being carried out by police and paramilitary forces was described by Vashisht as “very tough” since they were dealing with presence of many women and children inside.
The police said that some injured had been admitted to various hospitals at Hissar, Barwala, Agroha and Uklana after being injured in the violence.
“We are committed to bringing out Rampal who is 100 per cent still inside the ashram and comply with the High Court directive,” the DGP said. The High Court has directed the state government to produce him before it on Friday in a contempt case.
The area outside the ashram looked like a battleground with the heavy presence of police and paramilitary forces and Rampal’s supporters lining up the roof. The road was littered with stones and glass pieces.
Vashisht said as the security personnel launched the operation, they first had to face a hostile group of 50 followers who poured diesel on themselves and threatened to ignite it.
“We used water cannons. However, this group soon attacked the police with acid bottles, but we exercised restraint and managed to prevail upon them,” he said.
He said that Rampal was using a group of 2,000 to 3,000 women and children as “human shields” and they had pitched their camp outside the ashram complex for the past several days, but police managed to disperse them.
He said they were dealing with a hostile group of Rampal’s men who were armed with weapons like .315 bore guns, revolvers, pistols besides lathis.
The DGP said that a number of followers were stated to have carried licensed weapons inside the ashram some of which had been taken by Rampal.
He said 10 live cartridges were seized from two followers who had been arrested.
Rampal’s supporters were also having crude bombs and huge quantity of stones with them.
He said retired personnel of the police and the Army were also among their ranks and some people who had been trained by them.

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