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Sant Rampal

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Police used batons to try and disperse the guru's supporters

Thousands of supporters of a controversial Hindu guru have clashed with police outside his ashram in the northern Indian state of Haryana.

The 63-year-old self-styled guru, known as Rampal, is on bail after being accused in a 2006 murder case.

But authorities ordered his arrest on contempt charges after he failed to appear in court several times.

In his sprawling Satlok Ashram in Barwala town, supporters formed human chains to prevent his arrest.

Police fired tear gas shells and used bulldozers to try to break into the ashram to get to Rampal. The guru's supporters threw stones and fired at the police, reports said.

ndian television channels showed photos of injured supporters being taken away in police vehicles. Several reporters present at the scene were also injured.

"We had cut off the electricity and water connection to the centre. Our strategy was to take out the Baba [Rampal] and save the people inside the ashram," Haryana director general of police N Vashisth told reporters.

Mr Vashisth accused Rampal of using "women and children as human shields" and said people who were inside the ashram had been asked to leave.

"Police have sealed the ashram premises. Our operation would continue. I can't say whether it will end today or tomorrow, we will conclude our operation only after we have arrested Rampal," the police chief added.

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No comments about this? I was expecting a lot more. Well, now there is a national conversation going about these Deras with their sants and gurus.

What happened to the good old days when the sants job was only speaking the truth no matter how bitter, and raising awareness about issues. When did sants become gurus and armed criminals?

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The first Hindu World Congress is taking place in Delhi. The three-day conference, attended by delegates from 50 countries, opened Friday with a speech from the Dalai Lama. Organizers say the gathering marks a resurgence of Hinduism in politics, the economy, education and among young people and women.

Swami Vigyananand, general secretary of the Hindu group Vishva Hindu Parishad, devised the conference and spoke to India Real Time on the sidelines of the meeting about Hindu resurgence, the challenges facing Hindus around the world and why self-styled godmen are so popular in India.

The Wall Street Journal: Why do you think Indians are so drawn to gurus such as the self-styled godman Sant Rampal who has just been arrested from his ashramafter thousands of his followers tried to prevent his arrest? (Mr. Rampal was arrested on suspicion of murder on Wednesday. He denies wrongdoing.)

Swami Vigyananand: Sant Rampal is not qualified to be a guru. Such people denigrate the name of Hindu society, which was never sadhu or celibate-centric. Unfortunately, through the media projection–like television evangelists in the United States–they are becoming popular. I request all the Hindu population not to go behind these people. The core of the Hindu society is married people and they have to take the lead. I am a sanyasi [Hindu monk] and our role is as a catalyst only.

There are qualified and educated people who run after people like Sant Rampal. They don’t lack education, but they are ignorant about the philosophy and scripture and truth. In the modern democratic system, we don’t have a system where we can scrutinize wrong people. If they aren’t qualified, they shouldn’t be allowed to teach. We used to have an Assembly of Scholars to scrutinize these people, but that has been lost.

WSJ: Why is now the right time for the first World Hindu Congress?

Swami Vigyananand: Hindus are facing a number of challenges and this congress is designed to be a forum to discuss how to address them.

WSJ: What are the specific challenges faced by Hindus right now?

Swami Vigyananand: Economically, many Hindus are very poor. Educationally, we are spending billions to educate people abroad rather than in Bharat (India). We also have a large illiterate population. Thirdly, our women are very qualified and capable but they have not been given a platform in leadership. Then, politically, many of our leaders shy away from saying that they are Hindu. We want respect for our identity. And finally, Hindus are facing violations of their human rights in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Middle East and Sri Lanka.

The World Hindu Congress aims to tackle all these issues by giving a platform to address them.

WSJ: What specifically needs to be done to tackle the economic challenges?

Swami Vigyananand: Between the first and 15th century, Hindus contributed 30% to 40% of global gross national product. But with the Muslim invasion we became poor. We have a great tradition of entrepreneurship and we need to encourage that among our young people. We also need to connect Hindu businessmen and people who have money with people who have ideas. Then we can create surplus wealth that will help the whole world, not just Bharat.

WSJ: What would you say to people who might see Hindu resurgence as nationalistic?

Swami Vigyananand: Hinduism is a transnational identity, it is not nationalistic. Wherever Hindus are the majority, they support democracy. In Pakistan and Bangladesh where Hindus are in a minority, democracy has suffered. Hindu resurgence will help all over the world—not only the Hindu community, but all civilized peoples. But we will have a conflict with uncivilized people for sure, as all civilized people do.

For breaking news, features and analysis from India, click here and follow WSJ India on Facebook.

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