Punjab limping back to normalcy, isolated protests
Chandigarh, May 19 (PTI): After six days of sectarian violence which left one person killed and over 100 injured, Punjab was limping back to normalcy today with no major incidents of violence reported from anywhere in the state but protests and road blockade continued in some places.
Hundreds of activists of several sikh organisations blocked the national highway and the railway line connecting Jalandhar and Amritsar for over three hours in Subhanpur area at Kapurthala demanding the arrest of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Guremeet Ram Rahim Singh.
Movement of ten trains including the Amritsar-New Delhi express was affected.
Over 200 sikhs staged a demonstration in Kohal vilage in Ludhiana district. TheY were however not allowed to proceed near the Dera.
In Barnala locality of Sangrur district, Sikhs burnt the effigies of the Dera chief and set afire a shop besides blocking vehicular movement at some places. Police arrested about a dozen persons when they tried to set afire a house in Sunam, where a person was killed outside the Dera Sacha Sauda branch on Thursday.
Sensitive areas including Bathinda, Sangrur,Patiala and Ludhiana which form part of the Malwa region of the state are under close vigil of paramilitary forces and the state police, officials said here.
IG (Zonal), Patiala, N K Tiwari told PTI over phone here that the situation in the state was "very peaceful."
In Jalandhar, the bandh called by several sikh organisations was peaceful with no incidents of violence reported. All commercial establishments and educational institutions remained closed but banks remained open.
At Subhajpur railway crossing in Jalandhar, few protestors tried to stop a train but were prevented following heavy police deployment.
However, an uneasy calm continued to prevail at the headquarters of Dera Sacha Sauda at Sirsa in neighbouring Haryana.
The violence following the standoff between the Sikh groups and Dera Sacha Sauda claimed its first casualty in the police with Naresh Kumar,Senior Superintendent of Police(SSP) of Bhatinda, which witnessed maximum trouble, being transferred to an insignificant post.
Meanwhile, notwithstanding an appeal by major political parties, including ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), BJP and opposition Congress to the people of the state to maintain peace and communal harmony, the stand off between head of Dera Sacha Sauda and key religious and some fundamental Sikh organisations continued.
While the Dera head appears to be in no mood to render an apology for his alleged blasphemy, some Sikh organisations with extremist ideology, including Damdami Taksal are pressing for tomorrow's deadline for the state administration to arrest the Baba.
Any talks for a rapproachment between the Akails and the Deras also appeared dim with the militant faction within the Sikh clergy that the Dera head should apologise, a demand which has not found favour with Baba Gurmeet.
Sectarian violence erupted in the state on May 14 after newspapers carried an advertisement showing the Dera head allegedly imitating the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
VHP slams Dera chief
Slamming Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for purportedly dressing up like the tenth Sikh Guru, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad today accused him of trying to create tension between Hindus and Sikhs.
In a statement here, VHP chief Ashok Singhal also accused his Dera of having links with Maoists.
The VHP leader flayed the Dera chief for purportedly dressing up like Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, an act that sparked sectarian clashes in Punjab this week.
Singhal charged Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's Dera with attempts to create tension between Hindus and Sikhs.
In his comments, senior VHP leader Rajendra Singh Pankaj accused the Dera head of converting Hindus and Sikhs into his own sect.
"There are all out attempts by such forces to pull our people from their traditions," he said.
Sikh leaders in Delhi said they would take out an inter-faith march in the capital tomorrow to protest Dera's activities.
"We will not burn any effigy, but will take out this march from Gurdwara Rakab Ganj to Jantar Mantar with participants and leaders of different faiths carrying black flags," Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee chief Paramjit Singh Sarna said.
Govt withdraws security of Dera Sacha Sauda head
The Punjab government has withdrawn the security of head of Dera Sacha Sauda Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh whose followers clashed with Sikhs across the state.
Disclosing this here today, Punjab police chief N P S Aulakh told reporters here that "the police protection given to the Dera Sacha Sauda has been withdrawn."
"The four PSOs (Personal Security Officials) provided by the previous Government to the head of Dera Sacha Sauda has been withdrawn," he said.
The gunmen for the personal security of Dera head were provided by the previous Congress government headed by Amarinder Singh, Aulakh said.
Court records statement in case against Dera chief
A court here today recorded the statement of an advocate who complained about the disrespect allegedly shown by Dera Sacha Sauda head Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh towards Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.
A private complaint was filed by advocate Inderjeet Singh Bhatia in the court of Judical Magistrate Shubra Singh against the Dera head.
Bhatia said the Dera head had violated the Prevention of Misuse of Religious Institutions Act of 1988 and various sections of the IPC.
Strict action should be taken against the Dera for hurting the religious sentiments of Sikhs, he said.
The matter will be taken up by the court for further arguments on May 25.