Controversial guru Rampal at a police station in Panchkula
Hisar: Rampal Maharaj, the self-styled "godman" arrested this week from his 12-acre Haryana ashram, has been booked in 35 new cases that include the charge of murder, rioting and illegal confinement of people. He has been shifted to a jail in Haryana's Hisar where he will be questioned by a special police team.
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On Thursday, the High Court sent Rampal to jail till November 28 in a contempt of court case for ignoring summons. His lawyer pleaded that he had been unable to appear in court - Rampal defaulted 43 times in four years - as he was being held hostage by "anti-social elements" in his own luxurious ashram.
Later on Thursday, the Haryana Police registered fresh cases against him and formally arrested Rampal. A lower court put him in police custody for five days of interrogation. The Haryana Police has set up a special investigation team to investigate the charges.
The police will investigate the death of five women and a baby during a two-week stand-off when Rampal barricaded himself into the ashram guarded by devotees armed with stones, petrol bombs and other weapons after a court issued a warrant for his arrest.
They will also investigate riots and injuries to policemen and others when Rampal's devotees clashed with the police to prevent his arrest earlier this week. The police have also arrested almost 500 followers, including 250 members of the "private army" dedicated to Rampal's protection.
Rampal has said he regrets the death of his followers, but also stressed that he did not use his devotees as a human shield in the lengthy and violent stand-off with the police at the ashram. He has denied all charges against him.
The police say the guru illegally confined thousands as he sought to avoid arrest. After his arrest, the police supervised the exit of thousands of followers on Thursday and have sealed it. The Central Reserve Police Force is now guarding it.
The Haryana Police said searches at the ashram will continue. On Thursday, 33 weapons and some molotov cocktails were found at the ashram.
Rampal was arrested on Wednesday night, more than 24 hours after the police stormed the heavily-guarded ashram compound using water cannon, tear gas and batons.
Rampal's bail in an earlier murder case was cancelled on Thursday morning. He is accused of ordering his disciples to fire on villagers during clashes in 2006 in which one person was killed and scores were injured.
Rampal is 63-year-old former junior engineer whose lakhs of followers claim he is a reincarnation of the 15th century mystic-poet Kabir.