Five found dead at ashram

  • India
  • Thursday, 20 Nov 2014

Exodus: Followers leaving the ashram after riot police stormed the compound. — AFP

BARWALA, (India): Police discovered five bodies after storming the ashram of a wanted guru in northern India where thousands of followers have been holed up for days, as a sixth supporter died in hospital.

The authorities made the discovery a day after they forced their way into the heavily guarded ashram northeast of New Delhi where they believe self-styled “godman” Rampal Maharaj, who is wanted on murder charges, is still hiding.

They found the bodies of four women and one 18-month-old child, director general of police S.N. Vashisht said.

The child appeared to have died of natural causes but it was unclear how or when the four women lost their lives, he said.

Another woman apparently suffering from a heart condition died after being taken to hospital, Vashisht told reporters.

“All dead bodies have been sent to the hospital where they will undergo a post-mortem to ascertain the exact cause of their deaths,” he said.

Riot police on Tuesday stormed the ashram, which has been guarded by hundreds of followers for days after a court ordered the arrest of their guru on charges including conspiracy to murder.

Police used water cannons and tear gas on the followers, who were armed with stones, petrol bombs and other weapons, officers and television footage showed.

Thousands of followers poured out of the ashram overnight on Tuesday, but police said they believed another 5,000 were still inside the inner sections of the sprawling compound.

“We have already saved around 10,000 lives and around another 5,000 people are inside. We will save their lives and arrest the wanted man,” Vashisht said.

Some who fled claimed they had been held inside against their will, while police claimed they had been used as human shields to protect the guru.

“What started as a trickle hasn’t yet stopped and we have dropped off around 10,000 people at nearby bus and train stations,” assistant police superintendent Jashandeep Singh said of the followers.

“The people who left the ashram mostly said that they were being held against their will, as a shield for the guru against any police action,” Singh said from outside the ashram in Barwala town. — AFP

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