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Godman shows signs of relenting

Barwala (Haryana): Controversial godman Rampal late Sunday night showed signs of relenting as his close aides said he would obey the High Court directive and appear before it tomorrow if his “health” permits, easing the
PTI November 17, 2014 7:57 IST

Barwala (Haryana): Controversial godman Rampal late Sunday night showed signs of relenting as his close aides said he would obey the High Court directive and appear before it tomorrow if his “health” permits, easing the potential stand-off situation between authorities and his supporters.

As tension continued to mount in this town of Hisar, the spokesperson for the godman's ashram Raj Kapoor said “Sant Rampal ji has, in the past, appeared before the courts, whenever required. We are law abiding citizens...” Contending that the 63-year-old Rampal is not well, he said doctors will again review his health tomorrow morning and see if he can travel to Chandigarh, which is about 270 kms from here.

“If Sant Rampal feels better tomorrow morning, we will go to the court... We are keeping that option open,” Kapoor told reporters outside the ashram.

He added that if Rampal's condition does not improve by then, “we will again give a medical certificate.”

Punjab and Haryana High Court had on Monday last issued a fresh non-bailable arrest warrant against Rampal in a contempt case and asked as to why his bail in a 2006 murder case should not be cancelled.

The Ashram spokesman ruled out any confrontation between police and Rampal's followers.

“We had said this earlier, we are saying this now again, that we will not enter into any confrontation with the police.  However, if they try to forcibly take away Sant Rampal, then first they will have to take our lives,” he warned.

His late night statement came as authorities tightened the noose, with possibility of police storming the ashram to arrest the godman, ahead of a High Court deadline for his appearance tomorrow in a contempt case.

A large posse of police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed in this area of Hissar district with official sources saying a plan to storm the Satlok Ashram, the seat of the godman, has been kept ready even as efforts are being made to persuade him to surrender on his own to avert any violence.

A police official said additional forces have been deployed in Barwala town where Rampal is being protected by a strong human shield formed by his followers, some of whom are stated to be carrying lethal weapons.

Apprehending trouble, authorities imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC (which bars assembly of more than four people at one place) at various places, including Barwala, Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali.  Inspector General Anil Kumar Rao and Superintendent of Police Satendar Kumar Gupta said police would abide by the order of the High Court to arrest Rampal and produce him before the court.

They, however, declined to divulge the strategy to arrest the 63-year-old controversial engineer-turned godman.  Police and paramilitary forces surrounded the ashram and sealed all roads leading to the premises where disciples of the godman, including a sizeable number of women and children, were holed up to prevent his arrest.

The High Court had rejected Haryana government's plea that Rampal was unwell and his arrest would create law and order problems.

Holding that the state government lacked willingness to arrest the godman and no sincere efforts were made to produce him before it, the HC directed the Haryana Director General of Police and the Home Secretary to ensure that Rampal appears in person before it.

Rampal has been charged with interfering in judicial proceedings during the hearing of a case in the Hisar sessions court.

On July 15, his supporters had marched inside the district court complex in Hisar and tried to create trouble in the court proceedings.

The HC took cognisance of the case and issued notices to Rampal and the state government. As he failed to appear before it, the court had last week issued non-bailable warrant against Rampal and asked the Haryana government to produce him and his aide Ram Kunwar Dhaka before it.