Who is godman Sant Rampal
An explainer on this self-styled, controversial engineer-turned-godman
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With the huge number of godmen in India, chances are you may not have heard of Sant Rampal till about two weeks ago. Over the last 48 hours, Rampal and his legion of followers have become the talk of the town with the media providing an extensive, if not blow-by-blow account of the seige of his Ashram in Barwala town in Haryana.
Who is this Sant Rampal? Why is he even relevant today? As someone who literally stormed news media coverage out of nowhere, what is he accused of? Here’s an explainer on this self-styled, controversial engineer-turned-godman, Sant Rampal.
Who is he?
According to his well-designed website, Sant Rampal was born on 8 September 1951 in a village named Dhanana, in Sonepat district of Haryana to a family of farmers. He was christened Rampal Singh Jatin. His website also informs us that Rampal obtained a diploma in engineering. Following his education, Rampal was employed as a junior engineer with the irrigation department, Government of Haryana till May 2000. Rampal’s website also claims that he is a devotee of Lord Hanuman, whom he worshipped for over 25 years.
According to a Mail Today report, a seer named Swami Ramdevanand took him under his aegis. In 1999, he set up the Satlok Ashram in Karontha, Rohtak followed by many other ashrams including the one in Barwala.
His devotees call him reincarnation of the famous poet Kabir. His website makes him look like a tech and a social media savvy godman. You can live stream his satsang or become his fan on Facebook which currently has 4,462 likes or even subscribe to YouTube channel which is followed by 3,184 people.
If you are all inspired and planning to be his disciple, you’d have to be very disciplined. His followers are not allowed to worship any other god or go to a place of worship, eat meat or drink alcohol, or indulge in adultery and gambling or even to give or accept dowry.
What is his quarrel with law-makers?
His run-in with the law began in 2000 when he got into a war of words with Arya Samaj followers and made derogatory remarks against Swami Dayanand Saraswati. In 2006, the difference between the two groups turned violent leading to the death of one person. This is where his game of hide-and-seek with lawmakers began. Rampal was arrested from his Rohtak ashram following the clashes on charges of murder and attempt to murder but was released in April 2008.
Following his release, Rampal set up a fresh base at Barwala town in Hisar. Similar clashes erupted in May 2013 between the groups with 10 people killed and 100 injured. During his trial for the 2006 murder in Hisar court in July 2014, his followers went on a rampage and tried to disrupt court proceedings.
Since his 2008 release, Sant Rampal has managed to skip multiple hearings and is accused of contempt of court along with the murder and attempt to murder charges.
What is the current status?
An arrest warrant was issued in his name on Monday, 17 November by the high court following his failure to appear before the court. He is supposed to be produced on court by Friday after he failed to show up on Monday. This is the root cause of the rift between his followers and the police. The Haryana police went to arrest him but were confronted by armed rebellion from his followers.
The Harayana police had set a 10 am deadline on Wednesday for Rampal’s followers to vacate the Satlok Ashram at Barwala. Some 10,000 followers who were stranded inside the Ashram had began to vacate the premises by late Wednesday morning. The ashram management claims that he is not inside the complex. Haryana police has slapped sedition charges on Rampal under Sections 121 (waging or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India, 121A (conspiring to commit certain offences against the state and 122 (collecting arms etc with the intention of waging war against Government of India).
During Tuesday’s crackdown, several journalists who were covering the stand-off were attacked by his disciples. This is the third time in two weeks that he has managed to skip the court hearing. According to news reports, some 12 followers including women and children tried to self-immolate themselves on Monday.
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