Bathinda/Faridkot, January 29
Tension prevailed among Sikh activists and Dera Sacha Sauda followers in parts of Punjab today over a virtual ‘satsang’ of dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is out on a 40-day parole, at the sect’s Salabatpura dera in Bathinda.
On parole, dera head holds virtual ‘satsang’
Out on parole, Ram Rahim virtually addressed the ‘satsang’ from the dera ashram at Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh
400 police personnel, under the supervision of two SP-level officers, were deployed outside the Salabatpura dera
The police stopped Sikh leader Amrik Singh Ajnala at Kanhaiya Chowk in Bathinda while he was headed towards Salabatpura. Ajnala, who had an argument with Bathinda SSP J Elanchezhian, alleged that those accused of sacrilege had been provided massive security to organise the ‘satsang’ (religious meeting).
“The BJP governments at the Centre and in Haryana are repeatedly allowing parole to the dera head. The Bhagwant Mann government is also facilitating the ‘satsang’ of the dera chief, who has vitiated Punjab’s peace,” said Ajnala.
Activists of SAD (Amritsar) and other Sikh outfits blocked the Bajakhana-Barnala highway at Jalal village, which leads to the Salabatpura dera. The police cleared the road after detaining the protesters and taking them to an undisclosed location in a bus. The protesters raised slogans against the state and the Central governments as well as the police. Demanding justice in the over seven-year-old sacrilege and police firing incidents at Behbal Kalan, Kotkapura, Jawahar Singh Wala and Bargari, the members of various Sikh organisations are sitting on a ‘dharna’ on the Bathinda-Amritsar National Highway near Behbal Kalan village for the last over a year. On Sunday, the protesters blocked the way of several vehicles that were ferrying dera followers to Salabatpura.
Despite protests, dera followers reached Salabatpura in large numbers and 24 large screens were installed inside the ‘pandal’ (temporary shed) as Ram Rahim virtually addressed them from the dera ashram at Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh. Tight security arrangements were in place as 400 police personnel, under the supervision of two SP-level officers, were deployed outside the dera. Four police teams are learnt to have been kept on standby, said officials.
The tensions between the dera and the Sikhs had first started in May 2007 when Ram Rahim allegedly imitated Guru Gobind Singh by dressing like him during a ceremony at the Salabatpura dera, the sect’s Punjab headquarters and its second largest unit after Sirsa (Haryana). Ever since, tension has occassionally erupted between the two sides.