Riots broke out on Tuesday between local police and supporters of a religious leader, against whom an Indian court has issued an arrest warrant in the northern state of Haryana, in connection to a murder case. About 100 people, include 40 police, are being treated for injuries sustained in the clashes.
Police had ordered several supporters of Satguru Rampalji Maharaj, 63, to evacuate the area under 30 minutes under threat of gunfire, while the main gate of the hermitage, locally known as an ashram, was bulldozed by authorities. Police forces used tear gas, water cannons and batons to disperse the leader's supporters who had formed a human chain around the compound to prevent Rampal’s arrest, reports said.
Local television reports showed police dragging away protesters and 28 journalists too were reportedly injured in the clashes. Nearly 20 ambulances were called to the spot, where protesters had challenged authorities trying to arrest him and threw petrol bombs at them, the Hindustan Times (HT), a local newspaper, reported.
"Our guru is a holy man. It is our duty to protect his life. We will kill and fight till we die to save him," a supporter said, according to Reuters.
Rampal, an engineer-turned-religious leader, has skipped court 43 times since 2010 and is wanted for questioning on murder charges for allegedly ordering his supporters to open fire on villagers, killing one and injuring six in 2006, NDTV, a local news network reported.
He was to appear in court on Monday and missed it for the third time, claiming he was ill, reports said. The court then issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him and ordered authorities to present him in court on Friday. Rampal’s legal advisers had asked the court to conduct a video conference for the hearing, citing his health, but the court refused and reportedly issued a fresh warrant against him.
“We are prepared to address that health issue. The fact remains that contemnor Rampal is bold enough to hide in Satlok Ashram with a human shield,” the Punjab and Haryana High Court said, according to HT, while issuing a non-bailable warrant against him, adding: “Police authorities cannot unduly wait for days together to execute the warrants issued by this court… (It) is bound to send a wrong signal to the public.”