Three people were killed and 115 others, including 60 policemen, were injured in a clash between the Arya Samaj activists and the police over an ashram at Karontha village, 12 km from here, on Sunday.
The angry mob torched several vehicles during the protest. The deceased were identified as Promila, 40, a resident of Karontha village; Sandeep Kumar, 30, of Panipat district; and Udayveer, in his late twenties, of Baliyana village in Rohtak district.
Fifteen people, who were hit by bullets, were admitted to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS), Rohtak. Duty magistrate Parmod Chahal also suffered injuries.
Chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has ordered a magisterial probe, to be conducted by additional deputy commissioner RC Bidhan.
All hell broke loose as the police tried to stop the mob, comprising the Arya Samajis and villagers, from moving towards the Satlok ashram headed by one Rampal. The mob started pelting the police with stones. The protesters also set on fire five roadways buses, a PGI ambulance and 20 motorcycles stationed at the village school.
As the police tried to cane-charge the mob, they retaliated and locals joined the protesters in attacking the police. A few protesters allegedly threw petrol bombs at the police, forcing the latter to open fire.
Pandit Bhagwat Dayal Health University vice-chancellor Dr SS Sangwan, who visited the PGI to take stock of the situation, said, "Two people were brought dead at the PGI, while those who suffered bullet injuries were being given treatment."
Genesis of clash
The latest clash was the outcome of long-standing hostilities between Arya Samaj disciples and the ashram followers. Arya Samajis for long have been claiming that the ashram is illegal and wanted the ashram to be uprooted from Karontha. The counsel for the ashram says the Supreme Court order has handed over the possession of the ashram to Rampal.
Arya Samaj activists and supporters of Rampal clashed for the first time in 2006 after the former alleged that Rampal had been issuing derogatory statements against Maharshi Dayanand. The supporters of Rampal had claimed that the Arya Samajis were against their ashram head owing to his popularity.
Following the clash, the ashram was sealed and Rampal arrested on charges of murder with his followers after a village youth died in the clash. Getting bail after spending 22 months in jail, Rampal has currently set up base at Barwala in Hisar.
On Sunday morning, Arya Samajis started advancing towards the ashram. They were warned by the police against it, but they did not pay heed. The police cane charged the mob to disperse them and later used teargas shells. The situation turned ugly as the police opened fire and the bullets allegedly hit two protesters, including a woman, who died on the spot. Following this, the angry mob chased away the police and torched the vehicles parked outside the school.
Supporters gather at ashram
Ashram supporters gathered at the terrace of the ashram after getting the reports of the attack by Arya Samajis on the police. They accused the administration of playing a passive role despite the warning by the Arya Samajis a week ago. Photo-journalists of national dailies had to bear the wrath of protesters, who smashed their cameras.
Mystery surrounds firing
Fifteen people, including eight policemen, were admitted to the PGI following bullet injuries. Meanwhile, mystery shrouds the source of the bullets fired. The injured policemen told reporters that they had fired the bullets in the air to disperse the mob.
Sources alleged that the bullets had been fired from the ashram by the supporters of Rampal, who were allegedly in possession of firearms. Sources said had the police fired the bullets, half the bullet-injured victims would not have been policemen.
Police spokesperson Ved Parkash Nain said the police had fired in the air only and their bullets had not hurt or killed anyone.
A police official said companies of the Rapid Action Force and the CRPF had been summoned. DGP SN Vashisht said the situation was extremely tense but under control.
Rohtak SSP Vivek Sharma said the mob was carrying countrymade firearms, petrol bombs and locally-made crude bombs. "One of our sub-inspectors, Narinder, has been hit in the stomach and is critical. Many other cops have been shot at by the miscreants," he added.
Sharma said that prima facie the miscreants looked to be the supporters of the Arya Samaj. "However, we are in the process of verifying their antecedents and would like to call them anti-social elements. The crude bombs on being exploded raised such a cloud of dust that it was impossible for us to see clearly," the SSP added.
The police have registered a case against 300 people for rioting, unlawful assembly, criminal intimidation, causing damage and voluntarily causing hurt.