The reopening of controversial Satlok Ashram headed by Sant Rampal at Karontha village, 12 km from here, turned the hamlet into a virtual battlefield on Saturday.
Supporters of Rampal and activists of the Arya Samaj Partinidi Sabha gathered in huge numbers in the village amid heavy police force called in from other districts in the wake of an ultimatum for closure of the ashram issued by the Arya Samaj activists for Sunday.
Anticipating clash on Sunday, both sides mobilised support from outside. With strength of nearly 100, the Arya Samaj activists organised a meet at the village temple (Chattri Sahib), while nearly 10,000 supporters, including women and children, of Sant Rampal met at their "dera" located on the outskirts of the village.
Rajinder Dass, spokesperson for the Sant Rampal dera said: "After a clash in 2006, the district administration had sealed the dera under Section 145 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (dispute concerning land or water likely to cause breach of peace), but in February this year, we reclaimed the possession of the land with the due permission of the Supreme Court."
Hitting out at the Arya Samaj supporters, Dass said: "Despite the SC directions, they are threatening us and have even blocked the road outside the dera, but the administration is not taking any action in this regard."
Meanwhile, Acharya Baldev, senior leader of the Arya Samaj, said: "Rampal was booked under serious criminal charges in 2006 and was arrested for his involvement in nefarious activities. Our argument is that a person with such controversial past should not be allowed to carry out religious activities on the village premises. It will vitiate the village atmosphere."
However, fearing a bad name to the village, sarpanch Kamal Singh handed over a memorandum to the district administration requesting that no group should be allowed to clash on the village premises. He said the village panchayat wanted the issue to be solved amicably, not by resorting to violence.
Deputy commissioner Vikas Gupta warned people of strict action if they flouted norms and appealed people to maintain peace in their areas while refraining from participating in any such activity.
History behind the clash
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 February ordered the administration to hand over the ashram back to Sant Rampal in the beginning of April 2013.
On April 9, scores of Arya Samaj activists gathered outside Satlok Ashram and resorted to stone pelting, which was retaliated by the supporters of Rampal.
Getting bail after spending 22 months in jail, Rampal, a former government junior engineer, has set up base in Barwala town of Hisar district at present.