Chandigarh: The Dera controversy has given Punjab's hardliners and dormant organisations an opportunity to move out from the shadows to occupy center stage.
It has also turned into an opportunity for the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee – SGPC to reassert itself.
It's a passionate religious debate that the Dera Sacha Sauda has stoked in Punjab frighteningly familiar for those who battled years of militancy, but also highly enticing for others, who love fishing in troubled waters.
“We want the Deras closed,” said Bhai Mohkam Singh, a hardliner.
Hardliners like Mohkam Singh had been lying low since the end of militancy in the state.
But with the Deras emerging as a powerful religious counterweight, radical Sikhs are making it clear they're out for a long battle.
Here's the head of the organisation once headed by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
“First it was the Nirnakaris, then the Dera Sacha Sauda and we also know who are the others who are not preaching the Guru's teachings in the right way – such as Ashutosh Maharaj and Baba Bhaniarawala,” said Head of Damdami Taksal Sant Harnam Singh Bhindranwale.
Harnam Singh now heads the organisation (Damdami Taksal) once headed by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the radical supporter of Khalistan.
Experts are warning against the growing influence of radicals on the SGPC and the Akal Takht
“If it is a principled move on the part of the radicals and the Akal Takht to get Deras closed which is totally undemocratic,” said Pramod Kumar of Institute for Development Communications.
“SGPC and Akal Takht…the need is they should send these radicals back to the barracks as early as possible,” Kumar added.
The Government, however, says it is aware of the problem. “We are keeping a close watch on the situation,” said Punjab government Spokesperson H S Bains.
The reason that the Dera-Sikh standoff turned into such a complex problem is also because hardliners have not let the opportunity to take center stage go by.
The question is how long will this Dera controversy boost keep them going and will they continue to stoke the fires in Punjab?