On a day of swift developments, Haryana police on Thursday slapped charges of murder and violence against arrested ‘godman’ Rampal, formed an SIT and made 469 arrests, including three persons from Nepal.
“469 people have been arrested while more people are being questioned. Out of the total arrests made, 118 belong to Rajasthan, 116 Haryana, 72 Madhya Pradesh, 10 Bihar, 83 Uttar Pradesh and three from Nepal,” Haryana DGP S N Vashisht said in Chandigarh.
Claiming success of the operation, he declared at a press conference that the operation at Satlok Ashram in Barwala was successful and all followers holed up inside had come out.
Vashisht also said if during the course of investigations if any Maoist link to the controversial figure is found, it will be thoroughly probed.
He said that followers came out in numbers from inside the Ashram and nearly 4,000 of them, including 1,500 women, came out of the complex. Now no more followers, who had earlier been holed up, were left inside.
“The operation remained successful as our priority was to save innocent lives and to execute the court order to arrest Rampal,” DGP said.
He said all those arrested, against whom charges ranging from murder, attempt to murder, rioting, sedition and criminal conspiracy were registered, will be quizzed.
“We have also arrested Rampal’s key aide Baljeet, whose daughter Babita too has been arrested and from her one laptop, six mobile phones, 10 hard disks, 17 CDs, three telephone diaries and five files have been recovered.
“A special team including cyber experts, will scan all these equipment and whatever information we get during the course of the investigation will shared with you,” he said.
He said that another key aide Ram Kunwar Dhaka too has been arrested, while Rampal’s brother and key functionary Purshottam Dass and others were nabbed earlier.
Regarding the murder charge slapped on him, the DGP said, “I want to say that two other cases have been registered in Barwala and these pertain to murder. The six deaths that occurred (during siege inside Ashram that included an infant and five women) have been covered in these two cases.”
Vashisht said the murder charge was in addition to the FIRs registered against Rampal and others in the wake of over two-week tense standoff between his supporters and security personnel.
“And in these cases, the murder charge has been levelled against Rampal and others by the kin of the deceased,” he said.
The DGP said a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Hisar SP has been formed to probe certain cases, like recovery of articles like laptop, mobile phones, hard disks and other items recovered from the arrested accused.
“Our SIT whose head is SP Hisar and also includes two DSPs, four Inspectors, one forensic laboratory member and one cyber unit attached to it would also investigate the seized articles and recovered articles like laptops…,” he said.
“In a way, real investigation has begun now. Earlier, it was our priority to take out innocent people holed up inside the Ashram safely and also to arrest Rampal. If it will come to fore that any Maoist angle is involved, we will fully investigate it,” he said when asked if any Maoist link to the controversial Ashram head, had been found.
About the deaths, the DGP informed that the postmortem examination of all the six who died has been completed.
“No internal injuries were found, but in the case of deceased women Santosh and Raj Bala, internal injuries of rib fractures have been detected, but postmortem board will arrive at a definite opinion after chemical examination and histopathology report,” he said.
“I want to make it clear that all the deaths will be probed thoroughly and anyone found guilty will be dealt as per law,” he said.
Asked to comment on Rampal’s counsel S K Garg submitting before the High Court today that the ‘godman’ was actually in “captivity within the Ashram”, the DGP said, “I have learnt about it through the media. It is difficult to believe such a theory that the man who was heading the Ashram is saying so.”
Questioned if anything objectionable had been found inside the Ashram at Barwala, he said, “We entered only this evening after obtaining a search warrant. We will try to complete the search as soon as possible. Since the area of the Ashram is huge (12 acres) and lot of articles are spread, it may take a couple of days to conduct an intensive search.”
Regarding some minor children who were found wandering outside the Ashram today, he said that this matter was brought to his notice by IG (Hisar Range) A K Rao.
“If these children are able to tell their address, they will be dropped home and in case they are not able to do so, till the time we trace their kin they will be kept under state protection,” Vashisht said.
The DGP was also asked if police will suo motu initiate any search inside the Deras of Haryana to check for presence of any kind of illegal activity which may be taking place inside various Deras of the state.
To this, he evaded a direct reply, saying, “As I said, we entered the Satlok Ashram just a short while back and as of now I am not in a position to comment because I do not have a copy of the court order nor has my team been given any report (about recoveries).”
The High Court bench, before which Rampal was today produced, had in a verbal observation asked the Haryana Advocate General if any arms had been seized from the Ashram.
The DGP also denied that any special treatment had been extended to the ‘godman’ by the Haryana police.
About Rampal, who was brought in an ambulance to Panchkula last night for a medical examination, Vashisht said, “He was taken to police lockup (at Panchkula in the morning) the moment doctors declared him fit. That was mandatory preliminary examination the moment we arrest a person. I completely deny that he was allowed any extra facility.
“He was taken like an ordinary criminal in an ordinary prison van, reserved for the criminals provided by the government,” he said.
He said that Rampal will be questioned after fresh FIRs were registered against him and once anything substantial emerges, the details will be made public.
The DGP clarified that the ‘godman’ was arrested from inside his ashram and he had not surrendered.
“We have arrested him from the Ashram and he was brought to Chandigarh in an ambulance and not in any other vehicle because information was that he was unwell and we did not take any chance like we do with other accused criminals,” he said.
Commenting on the injuries to over 200 persons during the operation, he said it included 105 personnel, two of whom had received gunshot wounds and seven pellet injuries while others have injuries of various nature.
“I want to congratulate my force and others involved in this operation, whose overridng priority was to save the lives of innocents and arrest Rampal. The forces exercised maximum restraint despite provocation and did not fire in retaliation. They did a praiseworthy job,” he said.
On some mediapersons getting injured allegedly in police action outside Satlok Ashram on Tuesday, he said the Haryana police treats media as its ally and the incident will be probed.
He said that in future they may contemplate putting the mediapersons covering an operation, such as one carried out in Satlok Ashram, in a special vehicle to ensure their safety and security, as they go about performing their job.