Friday, May 18

Deadly protest of Sikh Community in Chandigarh

Protesters attack Dera Sacha Sauda campuses

STIR CONTINUES: Activists of Sikh organisations brandish swords during a protest against the Dera Sacha Sauda, in Amritsar on Thursday. A ban on the Dera was demanded by demonstrators at many places in Punjab.

CHANDIGARH : Angry Sikh protesters overran a campus of the Dera Sacha Sauda at Ram Nagar village near Maur Mandi in Bathinda district and damaged another in Mansa district.

Dera chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had presided over a congregation of the sect, which Sikh organisations have described as sacrilege against Guru Gobind Singh and the rituals related to baptism. The group, armed with firearms, swords and iron rods, ransacked the campus and set fire to parked vehicles. At least a dozen ``Premis'' (followers of the dera) suffered injuries and were hospitalised. Three policemen, part of a posse that was hopelessly outnumbered, were also injured.

The group led by the chief of the Damdami Taksal, Harnam Singh Dhuma, and a former militant, Daljit Singh Bittu had attended a congregation convened by the apex Singh Sahibs on the issue in Talwandi Sabo, but resented what it described as its ``soft'' decision.

The violence occurred when it was proceeding towards Salabatpura, where the Dera chief presided over the congregation, in a cavalcade of cars, trucks and tractor-trailers. The group had sworn to destroy the Dera's set up there.

IN THE EYE OF A STORM: Supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda protesting against the Punjab Government at Sirsa, Haryana, on Thursday.

Police succeeded in stopping the group near Bhai Rupa, about seven km from Salabatpura, where unofficial reports indicated that a few thousand ``Premis'' had gathered in the Dera's campus there.

After presiding over the congregation at Takhat Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo, Jathedar of Akal Takhat Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti pronounced the `hukumnama' (edict) directing all Sikhs to boycott the Dera Sacha Sauda and its `Premis.'

He served an ultimatum on the State government to arrest Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh within 10 days and sought a ban on the activities of similar sects whose practices hurt the sentiments of the community.

Though the Jathedar did not allow representatives of the organisations to speak, the Singh Sahibs accepted written suggestions, which they discussed at length before issuing the edict that they claimed was based on a consensus.

The protesters said that the tenure of the ultimatum was too long.

They also urged the Jathedar to lead a march to Sirsa and challenge the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters.