Haryana: Religious leader Rampal convicted in two murder cases, quantum of punishment next week
A Hisar court on Thursday found religious leader Rampal Dass guilty in two murder cases filed against him, ANI reported. The quantum of punishment will be announced over two days on October 16 and 17.
The verdict was announced by the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge DR Chalia. The special court was held inside Hisar’s Central Jail 1 and the judgement pronounced via video conference, The Indian Express reported.
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The final arguments in the cases against Dass, head of the Satlok Ashram, and 27 of his followers were completed on Monday, reported the Hindustan Times. Dass, lodged in Hisar’s Central Jail 2, has been charged with murder, attempt to murder, sedition, rioting and illegal detention.
Anticipating violence, the Haryana administration deployed more than 2,000 police personnel to maintain law and order in Hisar district and its surrounding areas, reported ANI. Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which prohibits the assembly of four persons or more, 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 40 deputy superintendent of police to ensure law and order. Meena, Inspector General of Police (Hisar range) Sanjay Kumar and Hisar Superintendent of Police Shiv Charan will monitor the situation.
Dass, founder of the Satlok Ashram in Barwala, heads a sect that worships the 15th-century poet and mystic Kabir, who is known for a message of tolerance.
The case dates back to 2006 when 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 arrested again in November 2014 after he failed to show up in court despite 43 summons issued against him in connection with the Rohtak incident. 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 power and water supply to the ashram, setting the stage for an operation by the state police. However, Dass’ supporters retaliated by hurling stones and acid at the police. 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.
The police filed new cases against Dass and he was charged with murder, attempt to murder, sedition, rioting and illegal detention.