Barwala (Haryana): Self-styled 'godman' Rampal was on Wednesday night arrested from his ashram, ending an over two-week tense standoff between his supporters and the police after close to 15,000 of his followers were evacuated from the sprawling premises.
He was whisked away in an ambulance which was followed by a number of police vehicles.
"We have arrested him. He is in our custody. He is being taken to hospital for medical examination," a senior police officer said outside the ashram near this town.
"He will be produced in the relevant court tomorrow (Thursday)," he said.
Police sources said Rampal would be taken to Chandigarh after medical examination. He is likely to be presented in a court there Thursday.
Self-styled 'godman' Rampal Maharaj's posted pictured on a damaged wall near the main entrance of his ashram as Indian policemen keep watch outside in Hisar, some 175 kilometres north of New Delhi on Wednesday. Pic/AFP
There was not much resistance offered by Rampal's supporters and his private army when he was finally taken into custody after 9 p.m., a police officer said.
Sources said Rampal's face was covered with a cloth when he was brought out from inside the ashram.
The controversial 63-year-old baba will produced in a Hisar court on Thursday, Superintendent of Police, Panipat Satish Balan told reporters.
Police arrested Rampal from Satlok Ashram where four women died mysteriously and two others in hospital in the midst of a showdown.
On a day of high drama, Rampal stuck to his defiant stand of not surrendering despite repeated announcements by the police asking him to do so. Police said he had not surrendered but was arrested.
Simultanerously, many followers including women with children stuck inside trooped out, many of them complaining that they were forcibly kept inside the ashram with its gates kept locked.
Haryana Police slapped fresh cases, including the serious charge of sedition, against Rampal who will be produced in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday, the deadline set by the court.
Police said 70 supporters of the Rampal, most of them his 'private commandos', who indulged in violence yesterday, were arrested and produced before the local court which sent them to judicial custody till December 3.
Those arrested, include son of Rampal and chief volunteer Purushottam Dass, a cousin of the 'godman'. Unlike yesterday, when the vicinity of the ashram in this town of Hisar district looked like a war-zone when police and Rampal's supporters clashed, including small arm firing from inside, the situation was peaceful today.
More than 10,000 followers, including aged men and women and children, who had been holed up inside the ashram for days, came out with raised hands, signalling peace. The desertion continued till late in the night.
By late evening, a large posse of CRPF personnel were brought to the periphery of the ashram. The Centre had also despatched 500 CRPF personnel to help the operations.
Earlier, the Centre appeared to be unhappy over the way the issue was being handled. Union Minister Rajnath Singh is
understood to have told Haryana Chief Minister M L Khattar to end the standoff quickly.
"The state government is proceeding carefully and cautiously to arrest Sant Rampal," Khattar said later.
While the clashes yesterday left over 200 injured, police today announced that bodies of four women were handed over to them by the ashram staff. Another woman and a one-and-a-half year-old baby were taken in serious condition to a hospital where they died.
It was not clear what caused their death. State police chief S N Vashisht said there were no external injuries and only a post-mortem will reveal the real reason of death.