A group owing allegiance to the Arya Samaj were opposing the opening of the Satlok Ashram.
Two persons, including a woman, died of bullet injuries and 115 others were injured in a clash between police and villagers at Karontha, near here, on Sunday. The villagers, led by local Arya Samaj leader Acharya Baldev, were demanding ouster of controversial godman “Sant Rampal” from his ashram.
Three Haryana Roadways buses, an ambulance and a liquor shop were also torched by the agitators, the police claimed.
The injured included over 60 police personnel, 26 of them women. Two of the injured policemen – Inspector Lalit and Sub-Inspector Narender – sustained bullet injuries and were operated upon.
“At least half-a-dozen injured have sustained bullet injuries and over a score were hit by shrapnel. Most of the injured sustained orthopaedic injuries with multiple fractures, head injuries and bullet injuries. None of them has life-threatening injuries,” said Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (Rohtak) Public Relations Officer Seema Dhaiya.
The deceased have been identified as Promila (40), a resident of Karontha village, and Sandeep (35) of Panipat. Both were declared brought dead to the hospital.
The violence broke out around 9 a.m. when the police personnel, deployed in Karontha, tried to stop the villagers from marching towards the Satlok ashram of Rampal and the agitators resorted to stone-pelting.
“The villagers, armed with firearms, lathis and stones, surrounded the police personnel and resorted to heavy stone-pelting and arson. The mob set Haryana Roadways buses meant for carrying the police force afire. The police were then forced to open fire in the air, resort to lathi-charge and lob teargas shells to bring the situation under control,” said a Haryana Police source.
The injured villagers, however, claimed that the police resorted to unprovoked lathi-charge and opened fire on them. Some of the injured also claimed that gunshots were fired from inside the ashram.
“The villagers were unarmed and peacefully marching towards the ashram when the police resorted to lathi-charge and lobbed tear gas shells. Not left with any option, the villagers pelted stones and set the vehicles on fire,” said Ved Singh of Kharawar village, who sustained head injuries.
The Rohtak police, in a press statement, said the shots were fired by the villagers and a case had been registered against them. Later in the evening, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda ordered a magistrate inquiry into the incident.
The stage was set for a face-off early this week with “Rampal Virodhi Morcha”, mostly comprising Arya Samaj followers, putting up posters across the city and calling for “Aar Paar Ki Ladai” (fight to finish) against the controversial godman on May 12.
The Arya Samaj followers are opposed to Rampal setting up a base in the region as both the groups have ideological differences which had resulted in a clash in July 2006 in which one person was killed and several others were injured. Rampal, who heads Satlok ashram, was then booked for murder and attempt to murder and remained in jail for 22 months before being released on bail in 2008.
Rampal, who is said to have political patronage, got the possession of the abandoned ashram again in April following court orders to which Arya Samaj followers were vehemently opposed and held a meeting recently to garner support against Rampal.