Nearly 3,000 followers of godman Rampal Dass were forced to vacate the Satlok Ashram in Haryana’s Karontha village by district authorities in a bid to defuse tension prevailing in the area following recent clashes. Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda also appealed to the people to maintain calm and peace.
On Sunday, three people died and over 100 others were injured when Arya Samaj protesters, opposing the re-opening of Rampal’s ashram on the grounds that its ownership was problematic, turned violent when police tried to intercept their rally. They burnt buses, vandalised vehicles and burnt down a liquor vend.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Rampal’s followers continued to camp in the ashram.
The feud between Arya Samajis and followers of Rampal is not new, and actually dates back to 2006 (see box).
On Monday morning, angry Arya Samajis moved the body of 40-year-old Promila, who died in the clash, to a spot near a village road and refused to cremate her unless their leaders were released. But on Tuesday even after the Arya Samajis taken into custody were released, they continued to protest and demanded that the ashram be vacated.
The district administration’s order came soon after. “The decision to clear the place of cult followers was taken to maintain peace and harmony,” said Rohtak deputy commissioner Vikas Gupta.
Initially, when supporters of Satlok management refused to comply, the district administration called in the JCB machine to raze the Ashram gate to vacate them forcefully.
The management agreed to vacate the premises on condition that ashram inmates would be transported under police security to another ashram.