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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Don't fiddle with Sikh traditions and principles: Akal Takht

Amritsar: The five priests of the Akal Takht on Tuesday warned against fiddling with Sikh traditions and principles.Addressing a news conference here this evening, the five priests, led by Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, expressed their objections over the alleged blasphemous acts of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of the Dera Sacha Sauda. The five high priests said that the Khalsa Panth is capable of tackling elements fiddling with Sikh traditions laid down by the ten Sikh Guru and the Guru Granth Sahib.The high priests said that they would be convening a meeting on May 17 at the Damdama Sahib to discuss the Ram Rahim Singh incident.Condemning the incident, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar blamed the previous Congress Government headed by Chief Minister Captain (retired) Amarinder Singh for instigating Dera Sacha Sauda to indulge in this sort of propaganda. Dera was mired in controversy following a CBI inquiry against its chief for his alleged involvement in a journalist’s murder.He was referring to the incident involving followers of the Damdami Taksal (Bhindranwala) and other Sikh organizations, who set effigies of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh ablaze in protest against an ad that showed the latter dressed as Guru Gobind Singh.The protesters also marched through the streets of Amritsar with placards and unsheathed swords. The march commenced from the Hall Gate and concluded at the Akal Takht Sahib.Gunam Singh, a follower, said that if the government failed to take action against Rahim Singh, the Damdami Taksal (Bhindranwala) activists would take the law into their own hands and punish him.Charanjit Singh, another follower, said Gurmeet Singh Ram Raheem Singh had not only hurt the sentiments of Sikhs, but was also key perpetrator of violence in Punjab and other parts of India. Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti has taken serious note of the incident, but appealed to the protesters to exercise restraint.Members of the SGPC along with activists of various Sikh organisations of Hoshiarpur led by Harjinder Singh Dhami, secretary of the SGPC, in a memorandum presented to the President of India through Deputy Commissioner here today sought ban on Dera Sacha Sauda for anti-Sikh activities which could disturb peace in the state.Dera History SheetWITH the CBI expected to file its investigation report in criminal cases registered against Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on April 16, some Congress leaders from Punjab are reportedly mounting pressure on the Central leadership to bail out the accused. Sources said some MLAs, accompanied by CLP leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, have sought the intervention of party president Sonia Gandhi. The move, dubbed as gratitude towards the dera for its support to the Congress during the assembly elections, could become a major cause of embarrassment for the party. Some dera supporters had set up its Political Affairs Wing (PAW) during the elections and declared that nearly 6.1 lakh voters affiliated to it in Malwa, besides about 60,000 in other parts of the state, would vote for the Congress. Notably, followers of the dera, called 'premis', have a strong presence in the Malwa region. The dera jumped into the fray to mobilise supporters in favour of the Congress candidate from Bathinda, Harminder Singh Jassi, whose daughter is married to son of dera head Sant Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh. The dera head is facing a CBI inquiry into the murder of a follower who had gone public on alleged sexual harassment of dera women. The probe was initiated after the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered the CBI to look into the charges of sexual harassment of women inmates by the dera head and murders of complainant, Ranjit Singh, and a journalist, Ram Chander Chhatrapati. Some women dera inmates had reportedly written an anonymous letter, levelling allegations of sexual harassment against its head, to several newspapers, including 'Poora Sach' of Chhatrapati, which carried reports based on the letter. Set up in Sirsa in April 1948 by Beparwah Shah Mastana Balochistani as the centre of spiritual learning, Dera Sacha Sauda welcomed people from all walks of life without any discrimination based on caste, culture or religion. The successor of Shah Mastana, Shah Satnam Singh, took over in 1960 and followed the tenets of his predecessor. On September 23, 1990, Shah Satnam held a huge satsang, where he announced his successor, Sant Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh. Parents of Sant Gurmit Ram Rahim, who was born on August 15, 1967, at Gurusar Modia village in Sri Ganganagar district, were followers of the dera. Possessing nearly 700-acre land in Sirsa, the dera has agricultural land, a revolving restaurant, biscuit factory, supermarket and an ice plant. Sources said the main source of their income was agriculture. The dera also runs a charitable co-educational school, a 175-bed hospital at Gurusar Modia and holds relief camps during natural calamities. The dera claims to have started rehabilitation work for tribals in Chhattisgarh. Sources in the dera claim that it had the following of about 1.7 crore people in the USA, Canada, Italy, Middle East, New Zealand and UK among other countries.

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