Mounting pressure on ‘godman’ Rampal to surrender, police has slapped sedition and other serious charges against him and several of his followers while ruling out any negotiations with him, a day after armed clashes took place.
Haryana Director General of Police S N Vashisht today asserted that police will continue its “operation” till he is arrested for production before Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday in a contempt case.
He said the ashram authorities have handed over bodies of four women and two sick persons, including an infant, who also died in a hospital later. The cause of their death will be investigated.
“There is no possibility of negotiations… There is not even any plan.. He is accused of serious crimes. My suggestion to him is that he should surrender before the law,” Vashisht said while addressing a press conference in Chandigarh.
Police registered fresh cases last night against Rampal, ashram spokesman Raj Kapoor, another key functionary Purshottam Dass and several other followers under under various Sections of the IPC.
The cases have been filed under Sections 121 (waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India), 121A (conspiring to commit certain offences against the state) and 122 (Collecting arms etc. with the intention of waging war against the Govt of India).
Besides, the cases have also been slapped against the accused under Sections 123 (concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war) and other charges that include attempt to murder, assault and under various Sections of the Arms Act, police said.
The fresh cases were filed after clashes broke out at the ashram between police and Rampal’s supporters, who allegedly resorted to firing and threw petrol bombs.
Rampal is already an accused in a murder case.
Earlier this week, Punjab and Haryana High Court gave the government time till Friday to produce Rampal in contempt of court case, after which authorities have been asking the devotees in and around the Satlok Ashram to disperse and help them comply with court order.
The DGP said 10,000 followers have come out of the ashram while nearly 5,000 are still believed to be inside.
Nearly 270 of Rampal’s supporters, including 20 key functionaries of his ashram, besides 250 members of his private army have been detained after the fresh charges, including that of rioting, were invoked.
After investigation, those found involved will be put under arrest, he added.
“As the investigation progresses, further charges would be added on the basis of evidence that comes to the fore against them,” he said.
He said the operation had been temporarily halted last night to allow more followers to come out of the Satlok Ashram.
“So far, as many as 10,000 followers have come out. We believe nearly 5,000 followers are still inside. These followers include women, children and very old persons as well. Most of them hail from places like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
“We are committed to protecting the lives of innocents.
Therefore, we are not setting any deadline for this operation as our over-riding priority is to save the lives of innocents,” the DGP, who was flanked by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) P K Mahapatra and Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Sanjeev Kaushal, said.
He said so far the security personnel had not entered the ashram and denied that there had been any delay or laxity on part of the police.
He said that this morning the ashram authorites handed over the bodie of four women to them including that of a 70-year-old.
The women whose bodies had been handed over were identified as Savita (31) of Delhi, Santosh (45) of Rohtak, Raj Bala (70) of Bijnore and Malikit Kaur (50) of Sangrur in Punjab.
Besides , 20-year-old Rajni, who was in a serious with a heart ailment, was rushed to Hisar hospital from the Ashram at around 4 a.m., but died there four hours later.
A one-and-a-half year old infant, whose father’s name is Vipin Pratap Singh, also died as he was suffering from congenital jaundice.
The infant belonged to Rewa district in Madhya Pradesh, he said.
DGP said that police will investigate all deaths to ascertain the cause.
“Post mortem examination of the bodies will be conducted to ascertain the exact cause behind their deaths,” he said.
DGP made it clear that there were no wounds on the bodies of the four women the police was also not certain under what circumstances they had passed away.
“Inquest proceedings are being conducted. When post mortem examination report comes, then we will know whether they died due to natural causes or due to any other reason…,” he said.
DGP Vashisht denied that there had been any intelligence or police failure which allowed Rampal to use thousands of followers as “human shield” and put the forces on the backfoot.
“There is no laxity or lapse or delay on our part. One has to keep in mind that here we are dealing with a situation where thousands of lives are at stake and we could not have carried out a sudden attack and put them in danger,” he said.
“Police are doing their job and we will produce Rampal, who as per our information is still inside the Ashram, before the High Court,” he said.
Mahapatra said that Haryana Police is a “professional force” and is committed to uphold the rule of law.
Kaushal too dismissed suggestions about intelligence failure or that the Manohar Lal Khattar government had failed to deal with the situation.
He said that the DGP and the Home Secretary had given the details of “operational strategy” in a sealed cover to the Punjab and Haryana High Court to execute the non bailable warrants.
“We are not in a position to divulge the details of the strategy being adopted,” he said.
Meanwhile, DGP defended the decision to allow the mediapersons only at a “safe distance” from the ashram today to cover the operation being carried out by the forces.
He said the police had fund that over 250 LPG cylinders were stored inside the ashram and in case of any explosion, it could cause harm to those who are within 500 metre distance of the premises.
“We treat media as our ally and we are concerned about their safety and security even as we remain committed to allow them to discharge their duties in a free and fair manner,” he added.
Haryana police has drawn severe flak for the assault on journalists and camera persons outside the ashram yesterday.
“The operation will continue in many phases,” he said, adding, “we are working with twin objectives. First to save innocent lives and take them out safely and second to arrest Rampal and produce him before the court.”