Police search Rampal's ashram, more followers leave

Police search Rampal's ashram, more followers leave

Security forces launched a search operation inside the Satlok Ashram of controversial sect leader Rampal near Barwala Thursday to recover weapons and other things that were used by his supporters while resisting police action  Tuesday.

With Rampal being arrested by the police Wednesday evening, nearly 3,000 of his followers were still inside the 12-acre ashram complex. Due to their presence inside and treading with caution, the security forces did not enter the premises immediately and asked them to vacate the  premises.

Hundreds of Rampal followers could be seen inside the huge Satsang hall of the ashram. Many of them said that they had complete faith in Rampal and added that he will return soon.

"Many of the followers have been continuously coming out  since last night ever since Rampal was arrested and taken away. Nearly 15,000 followers, many of whom were forced to stay inside by aides of Rampal, had left yesterday (Wednesday) and were transported to the railway station and bus stand," a police officer told IANS here.

Police officers outside the ashram said that the search operation would take some time as Rampal followers were still present inside the  premises.

"We will search for weapons and other ammunition which  Rampal supporters used against the police on Tuesday. All the evidence would be  collected," the police officer said.

Police officials said that some areas of the ashram  complex were in a mess after Rampal supporters fought pitched battles with security forces Tuesday. They fired at police, lobbed petrol bombs and acid pouches, besides hurling stones and bricks.

The police had arrested key aides of Rampal and nearly 450 other supporters Wednesday. They have been booked for  sedition, rioting, illegal detention and other  sections.

The sect leader had been avoiding arrest and failed to appear before the Punjab and Haryana High Court although non-bailable warrants were issued against him Nov 5.

Rampal's supporters had indulged in vandalism in a court in Hisar in July when he was going there in  connection with a 2006 murder case. The high court took suo motu notice of the  incident and summoned Rampal.

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