Barwala (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Nearly 200 people were injured in clashes between police and followers of Baba Rampal, a self-styled Hindu guru charged with murder and waiting to appear before a court of Haryana.
Using women and children as human shields, for over a week his devotees have barricaded themselves in the Barwala ashram (Hisar district), to prevent the police from making the arrest. Armed with guns and Molotov cocktails, his followers have attacked police: 105 officers and around 82 members have been wounded. A spokesman for the guru said that "innocent people have lost their lives" and that "eight bodies lie in the ashram." Police deny these allegations.
It is unclear whether Baba Rampal is
still inside the complex. The guru is on trial for
the murder of one of his followers, who died in mysterious circumstances in another ashram in 2006. He is
free on bail, but the judges
have issued an arrest warrant for contempt of court, as most times he does not was
presented at the hearings. The holy man is also accused of fraudulent land expropriation and
violence against his followers.
Last night, the police managed to get out about 60 people from the ashram. "I came here from Jaipur November 7 last - Mani Ram tells Indian Express - and every day they asked us to stay for another 24 hours. In the last two days they stopped us from leaving, saying that the police would kill us". When the first of the followers abandoned the "sacred" place, officers applauded his every step, to reassure and push others to follow his example.
About 50 women, taken by the
police before the violence
began degenerating are currently living at the train station in Hisar. "We wanted to leave before - says Laxmi, from Gonda
- but could not.
My husband and my two children are still in there.
When the police came to pick us up, I sat outside the ashram. They took us women and children out to
prevent a police attack. Those people
separated families on purpose, to force us
to stay. "
Even Dhanno Devi came to the ashram on 7 November: "When the situation worsened I wanted to leave, buttehy stopped meme. Even when the food is finished, the men [the guru] would not let us go. And the children are suffering, there are over 20 thousand people in there. They also threatened that Baba would not bless us, if we left".