Rampal’s Rs. 1000-crore empire collapses in 10 days

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

Till 10 days ago, he ruled over an empire worth over Rs. 1,000 crore and had thousands of followers who would give their lives for him.
On Thursday, when The Hindu visited the cell of self-styled godman Rampal in the Civil Lines police station here, his possessions were a durrie and a couple of blankets.
The staff said there is no light or fan in the cell and he is being served the staple diet of dal, roti and sabzi, besides two cups of tea a day.
“Please tell everyone the whole truth,” he said, when told who the visitor was. Indeed, there is a lot to tell.
A visit to his 12-acre Satlok Ashram at Barwala reveals his influence: from his gaddi, the chair in the air-conditioned enclosure placed behind a bullet-proof screen a couple of floors above, he would preside over huge gatherings in the covered hall. The 30,000-odd quilts and tonnes of rotting food lying in the ashram kitchen speak volumes about his clout.
“There were nearly 25,000 people in the ashram when the November 18 police operation to arrest him was undertaken,” says Inspector General, Hisar Range, Anil Kumar Rao, who commanded the police and Central teams which ensured the arrest of Rampal in a contempt of court case.
“He did not go for 42 court appearances. Also, the armed rebellion he planned against the State, the manner in which he held his own followers hostage, especially women and children, to be used as human shields, all point to a destructive mindset,” said a State CID officer, who has been posted outside the ashram since the beginning of the month, when Rampal’s stand-off with the police began.
The Rapid Action Force personnel are still guarding the fortified ashram as there are a lot of things of value inside it.
The godman had an almost fully air-conditioned personal section towards the rear end of the ashram which rose a good five storeys with about 28 spacious rooms. The presence of six vaults, use of imported granite and tiles, and plush furniture all point to the unimaginable wealth he enjoyed.
Be it his gold-rimmed spectacles, brand new clothes, the swimming pool or the lift in his personal area, every inch of the space speaks of his riches. But the police insist he may not be able to enjoy them ever again.

Much to hide
They claim he led a dual life and had much to hide. That was why he installed heavy curtains, had electric shutters on windows and iron doors in every room. Thousands of pieces of undergarments, many in their original packing, were kept in the rooms.
Along with him, the police had also arrested his second-in-command, Baljit, and the latter’s daughter, Babita, who stayed in the ashram. Their role in guiding Rampal is also being probed. Mr. Rao said the Special Investigation Team has so far registered seven different cases. In the main FIR, the godman and his associates have been booked on 20 different charges, including sedition and murder.
The police are now focussing on establishing the expanse of his properties.
Besides Satlok Ashram, he had another one in the vicinity which is spread over nearly six acres. He is learnt to have bought a 52-acre plot on Daulatpur Road where he had planned an even bigger ashram. Of his two ashrams outside Hisar, one is in Karontha in Rohtak, where a murder took place in 2006 leading to the original case in which he had been arrested, and the other is at Betul in Madhya Pradesh, spread over 70 acres.
While the police have frozen the ashram’s accounts, they are awaiting court orders to proceed against the property. Once the search at the Satlok Ashram is over, it would be sealed.

Courtesy: The Hindu