Cash, arms, bullet-proof jackets found, lockers opened at ‘godman’ Rampal’s Satlok Ashram

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Barwala (har) | Published: November 24, 2014 8:08:12 AM

During the search at the ashram, four .315 bore rifles, five .12 bore guns and some cartridges were found.

Cash, weapons, bullet-proof jackets and commando dresses were found even as lockers were opened at arrested ‘godman’ Rampal’s Satlok Ashram, where he was taken by the police for the first time since his arrest on November 19.

The police said they collected evidence and took information from Rampal about the lockers and almirahs at the premises.

The lockers were opened in the presence of a magistrate, they said.

63-year-old Rampal, during his hour-long stay at the 12-acre complex, was questioned by the Special Investigation Team of Haryana Police on the recoveries, including arms and ammunition, that have been made, the police said.

During the search at the ashram, four .315 bore rifles, five .12 bore guns and some cartridges were found, Hisar Range Inspector General of Police, A K Rao said.

Rao, who along with other senior police officials held a meeting with Director General of Police S N Vashisht in connection with the ongoing search operations and investigation pertaining to the activities of Rampal, said that three bullet-proof jackets and some “commando dresses” had also been found.

Asked if Rampal and his private commandos could have been preparing for taking the police force head-on during the tense standoff, Rao said, “It could be that or it could also be the fact that they were apprehensive of some threat (police action against them).”

He said since the bullet-proof jackets cannot be procured for civilian use, the police will check from where they managed to procure these. “Besides, we found some commando dresses,” he said.

About the recovery of money, Rao said that some cash had been found, but the exact amount would be calculated only after the search was over.

Rampal was arrested on November 19 from his ashram, where a thorough search has been going on for the last four days.

He was produced before the Punjab and Haryana High Court a day after his arrest in a contempt of court case and later remanded in police custody for five days by a court in Hisar after fresh cases were slapped on him.

The police said they found thousands of ‘lathis’, over 100 helmets, 20 dresses of commandos, 80 black shirts, acid bottles and other articles.

They said that the search operation will go on for a few more days as the ashram was spread over a vast area.

So far, around 900 followers of Rampal have been arrested for various charges. They include 31 private commandos who were injured in the clashes on Tuesday and had been subsequently hospitalised. They were arrested by the police today on being discharged.

During the standoff between Rampal’s followers and the police, five women and an infant had died, while more than 200 people were injured in the clashes.

For the search operation, the police have divided the ashram into three zones. The underground bunkers are also being searched.

Yesterday, the police had found a bullet-proof vehicle, an oil-tanker, two tractors and many two-wheelers from the ashram.

Earlier, a cache of arms and ammunition, petrol bombs and acid syringes were found from the highly fortified complex.

The sprawling complex was under constant surveillance of CCTV cameras installed at several key points to keep tabs on the movements of followers, who largely came from low-income strata.

Meanwhile, a fact-finding committee set up by the Press Council of India in connection with the attack on media persons by police personnel in Barwala during the clashes, visited this town today to gather information. They met some of the local journalists and police officials.

The three-member team had visited Chandigarh yesterday and also met the state DGP.

Media crews, covering the stand off, had faced the brunt of the violence that left some of them injured while cameras of many private electronic news channels were broken.

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