Tension prevailed at Karontha village, 12 km from here, on Tuesday evening when protesters led by Arya Samaj activists clashed with supporters of Sant Rampal over the reopening of his Satlok Ashram.
Heavy police force was pressed into service after the villagers and supporters of Rampal turned violent and began throwing stones at each other. Police had to use mild lathicharge to disperse the mob outside the ashram on the Jhajjar-Rohtak road.
Soon after news spread that Rampal had been handed over charge of Satlok Ashram on Sunday, the Arya Samaj activists opposed the administration's decision and held a meeting at the village. When they failed to get a response from local residents, the Arya Samaj activists reportedly brought supporters from outside and held a dharna outside the ashram on Tuesday afternoon. By evening, some villagers joined them. The protesters attempted to sneak into the ashram carrying brickbats. Security personnel thwarted their plan. Meanwhile, nearly 400 followers of Rampal, who were inside cleaning the ashram, gathered on the roof and piled up stones to retaliate in case of an attack from outside.
Rohtak range IGP AK Rao said that the situation in Karontha was tense but under control. He said traffic on the Jhajjar-Rohtak road had been diverted after protesters blocked it.
Satlok Ashram was sealed by the district administration soon after Rampal's arrest in 2006. His supporters challenged the administration's decision in the Punjab and Haryana high court and later in the Supreme Court. Rampal's advocate Raghbir Hooda said that the apex court had in January ordered the administration to hand over the ashram back to Sant Rampal. The administration was apprehensive about a law and order problem. Arya Samaj leader Acharya Baldev said: "The property of Satlok Ashram has been grabbed by Rampal through illegal means and he faces a murder charge. As long as the case is pending in court, the ashram should not be handed over to him as he runs illegal activities in the garb of running an ashram."
Rampal got bail after 22 months in jail and has set up base in Barwala town of Hisar district.