Sticking to their stand, followers of self-styled godman Rampal, head of Satlok Ahram, on Sunday said they would not allow his arrest. Purushotam Dass, brother of Rampal, said, “We have respect for the court orders. Sant Rampal would appear in the court as soon as he recovers from his ailment.”
The Punjab and Haryana High Court on November 5 had issued non-bailable warrants (NBWs) of arrest against Rampal and president of National Social Service Committee, Ram Kumar Dhaka for intentionally disobeying the HC directions to face contempt proceedings initiated by the court. The HC had directed Haryana director general of police and home secretary to ensure that NBWs are executed and the duo are arrested and brought before the court for hearing on November 10.
Contempt of court notice
The high court had issued a notice of contempt of court (criminal) to Rampal and Dhaka after receiving reports from Hisar and Rohtak sessions judges regarding holding of assembly and demonstration by Satlok Ashram devotees during the hearing of cases against the ashram head and allegedly misbehaving with lawyers, thus trying to subvert the process of law and interfere in judicial proceedings.
In his affidavit filed before the HC, Rampal said the persons who formed a human chain around the Hisar court complex, demanded identity cards from advocates and did not allow them to enter the court complex were members of a private organisation called the National Social Service Committee, being run by one Master Ram Kumar Dhaka.
Rampal said he had nothing to do with the committee or its members. He also contended that the members of the committee came to the court for holding a peaceful protest and the procession taken out by the public at large was managed by the committee over which he (Rampal) had no control.
A HC division bench of justice Rajive Bhalla and justice Surinder Gupta in its August 27 order said, “We would like to record our prima facie opinion that the affidavit filed by contemnor, Rampal, though admitting to facts that have led to issuance of the show-cause notice, tries to evade responsibility by placing responsibility upon the general public and the National Social Service Committee.”
Uncertainty, however, prevails whether the state government by way of negotiations or use of force executes the NBWs against Rampal and Dhaka. Companies of police force and paramilitary spent their day at Hisar headquarters doing mock drills in wake of the tense situation.
Volunteers of the ashram have occupied vantage positions to keep watch on the goings-on. A large number of women and children are also present on the premises of the ashram.
Hisar senior superintendent of police Satendar Kumar said, “We shall comply with the orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court. The talks are on to resolve the issue peacefully.”
He confirmed that a team of doctors has checked Rampal and found him unwell. Rampal has not addressed the congregation for the last three days due to health reasons. There is every possibility of surrender or arrest of second accused, Ram Kumar Dhaka, an aide of Rampal, on Monday morning.
In a change of strategy on Sunday, women and minors replaced the army of black-clothed and stick-wielding youths at the Satlok Ashram main gate, who formed a human shield to stop police from entering the premises. The men were on Sunday seen standing behind the womenfolk and children as the “security cordon” thrown around the ashram was rearranged.
Though the vehicular traffic on Hisar-Chandigarh highway remained normal till Sunday evening, commuters travelling on this stretch will certainly get inconvenienced in case of a law and order problem. Challenging the authorities, Satlok Ashram spokesperson, Raj Kapoor said they were free to come and arrest the godman. “But first they would have to clear the human barrier formed by thousands of devotees assembled on the ashram premises,” he said.
Rampal not inside ashram?
The self-styled godman who is believed to be inside the ashram in Barwala could actually be admitted to a hospital outside the ashram precincts, sources said. “Teams of heart specialists from Chandigarh and Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, have been looking after Rampal who is unwell,” said the ashram spokesperson.
Satsang inside, chaos outside
The actions of followers of Rampal, head of Satlok Ashram, have been causing inconvenience to commuters passing from in front of his Barwala-based ashram on Hisar-Chandigarh highway, with loudspeakers blaring spiritual messages from inside and gun-toting youths standing outside.
Surender Kumar, a youth who was passing by the ashram in his car, on Sunday said he was taken aback after witnessing the aggression in the eyes of youths, who have gathered here in the name of attending a satsang. A woman accompanying him said when the administration is aware that the situation might turn volatile, they should not allow vehicles in this area.
The Satlok Ashram management has changed its strategy and has now pushed women and children in the front row of human shield. While they have extended three-day satsang till Monday, deadlock continues. The administration and police officials maintained a distance from the Barwala ashram, where Rampal is believed to be hiding. Rumours of Rampal correct location kept the administration on tenterhooks.