Police search Rampal's ashram, more followers flushed out

Barwala (Haryana): A day after his arrest, security personnel today carried out searches at the ashram of self styled 'godman' Rampal even as more followers were flushed out from the premises.

Security personnel made their way inside the Satlok Ashram, whose main gate was opened in the afternoon. Police said that they would conduct a thorough search of the premises. Early this morning, the authorities appealed to the followers still inside the Ashram to come out telling them that the police and civil administration was out there to help them.

Police said that they suspect some staunch supporters and members of his private commandos were still inside. Police and para-military forces involved in the operation have been appealing to the followers who are still inside the ashram to come out without any fear, but some were still apprehensive.

Before launching full-scale operation to search Ashram for objectionable items, including arms and ammunition, police said they want to ensure that all innocent followers have come out so as to isolate any of the commandos or other accused who may be still hiding inside.

63-year-old Rampal, who had refused to appear before the High Court in a contempt case claiming he was unwell, was arrested last night from his Satlok Ashram after a two-week long stand off. Many followers, who came out of the Ashram, told security personnel and the media persons that some private commandos of Rampal had been telling them for the past few days that if they venture out of the complex they will be harmed and arrested by the police.

"They created fear and used pressure tactics to hold us back. They kept telling us that as soon as we venture out wewill be arrested and put to harm," Indu, a middle-aged woman follower from Madhya Pradesh, told reporters. Like her, many other followers, holed up inside the Ashram for several days, had harrowing tales to narrate.

"If you go out, police will shoot you, they think you are criminals," a young follower from Uttar Pradesh, said, giving detail how coercive tactics were used to force them to stayback. Hundreds of followers who had been inside the Ashram came from poor economic and educational background and even from far off places like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, a volunteer who had been providing food and water to those coming out, claimed.

Police had earlier registered cases against Rampal, including that of sedition against him and several of his followers, including key aides. The sprawling Ashram is spread over 12 acres of land, police said, adding they suspect that there may be arms and other ammunition inside, some of which was used to target the security personnel on Tuesday.

During the siege, four women died under mysterious circumstances while a young woman who was taken to hospital at Hisar in a serious condition also died. An infant was also declared dead by the hospital after being taken there yesterday. Many of the followers who came out early today said there were still many who were inside.

After coming out, the police took them straight to railway station and bus stands in the vehicles arranged by the government. Haryana Police and para-military forces kept surroundin the premises and were keeping a vigil so that any accused person who may be hiding inside does not escape.

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