Dera row: Attempts on to broker peace
23 May, 2007
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
The bandh called by the Akal Takht priests against Dera Sacha Sauda passed off without any major violence on Tuesday. However, the display of public passions showed the sectarian differences in the state, as also elsewhere, following Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh impersonating Guru Gobind Singh, were far from resolved. The Akali Dal-BJP government, saddled with the job of reining in angry Sikh groups from various radical organisations, took no chances and ensured that an alert state machinery nipped any indication of trouble in the bud. A relieved Punjab’s police chief NPS Aulakh said nowhere in the state did things go out of hand. Government spokesman Harcharan Bains thanked the people of Punjab for ‘‘rising above political, religious or other considerations and whole heartedly cooperating in maintaining peace.’’ Activists of Arya Samaj, led by Swami Agnivesh, meanwhile went to Dera headquarters in Sirsa to broker peace. There was no word, however, on how that meeting went. The bandh, which saw some shops closing down in Chandigarh as well, was complete in almost all of Punjab. In Amritsar, streets remained deserted and shops fettered. No sword was brandished at marches as police videographed the processions warning mischief-makers of serious consequences. In Ambala, police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse a rowdy crowd. The apprehension now is that Dera chief’s refusal to apologise could aggravate the situation post-May 27, the deadline set by Akal Takht priests for the same, failing which the possibility of Akali raids on Dera could not be ruled out. State BJP, which had made it clear on Monday that no untoward incident would be tolerated probably fearing the loss of its Hindu votebank, appreciated the role of Sikh organisations in carrying off the bandh peacefully. In the same breath, the party also cautioned Dera against inciting further trouble.