New Delhi: A Haryana court on Thursday found self-styled godman Rampal Dass and several of his followers guilty for two murder cases. The quantum of punishment will be pronounced on October 16 and 17.
Rampal and 27 of his followers were charged with murder and wrongful confinement after four women and a child were found dead in his Satlok Ashram in Barwala town in Hisar on November 19, 2014. In August 2017, Dass was acquitted in two criminal cases, but continued to remain in jail as he faced several other cases.
The judgement was announced by the court of additional district and sessions judge D.R. Chalia. The court proceedings took place inside Hisar’s Central Jail 1 and the verdict was pronounced via video conference, The Indian Express reported.
According to a Hindustan Times report, the arguments in the complaints against Dass, the head of the Satlok Ashram, and 27 of his followers, were finalised on October 8. The self-styled godman had been charged with murder, attempt to murder, sedition, rioting and illegal detention.
Anticipating violence by his followers, the Haryana administration deployed more than 2,000 security personnel to maintain law and order in Hisar district and other areas, ANI reported.
Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been in force across Hisar since Monday, said District Collector Ashok Kumar Meena.
Although no followers entered Hisar on Wednesday, they were expected to arrive on Thursday through different means of transport. Trains from different parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana were prohibited from entering Hisar on Thursday, ANI reported.
The administration has formed teams under 27 sub-divisional magistrates and around 40 deputy superintendent of police in order to ensure law and order. Meena, Inspector General of Police Sanjay Kumar and Hisar Superintendent of Police Shiv Charan will monitor the situation in the area.
In 2006, Dass’ supporters allegedly opened fire on villagers in Rohtak, killing one person and injuring several others. Dass was charged with murder and spent 22 months in prison until 2008.
Dass was eventually arrested in November 2014 after he failed to show up in court despite 43 summons issued against him. Violence broke out at the Satlok Ashram before his arrest. Nearly 15,000 followers arrived at the ashram and formed a human shield.
After several days of standoff, the Haryana state government disconnected the power and water supply. Five women and a baby died during the siege, and over 200 people were injured. The police then arrested Dass. Some devotees later alleged that they had been held hostage inside the ashram.
Dass calls himself a reincarnation of poet-saint Kabir.
(With inputs from PTI)