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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Punjab The Latest as it comes

Dera takes to Gandhigiri as Sikh clergy talks tough

New Delhi:
Punjab continues to be on the boil as the face-off between the Akal Takht followers and the supporters of Dera Sacha Sauda enters Day Five.
The Akal Takht is in no mood to relent. A meeting of the jathedars or the high priests of the gurudwars rejected the Dera chief’s statement of regret and has demanded that all Dera centers be closed before the end of this month.
The Akal Takht also called for a statewide bandh on Tuesday, May 22.
“All the Deras have to be closed down by May 27. They will face stern action if they don't comply,” said Akal Takht’s head priest Joginder Singh Vedanti.
The Akal Takht also wants the government to decide on initiating a CBI enquiry against Baba Ram Rahim Singh by the May 31.
Even as the meeting began, it witnessed some tension when a police official was caught carrying a pistol at the venue.
Sikh religious bodies and the Dera have been at loggerheads ever since a newspaper ad featured the Dera Chief attired as the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.
While the Dera expressed regret over the incident on Saturday, Sikh conservatives think it’s not enough.
“Regret is expressed when one does something unintentionally but for this act of Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh he has to apologise,” says SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar
On Sunday evening, Dera convened a press conference and said it was not in the favour of “any violence.”
In what seemed like an attempt at Gandhigiri, Dera spokesperson Pankaj Insan said the group will organise will organise a blood donation camp in protest against the Akal Takht dictat.
“Whatever legal course has to be taken, it will be taken,” said Insan.
Earlier on Sunday, Punjab police lodged an FIR against the Dera Chief for hurting religious sentiments.
“An FIR has been lodged because religious sentiments were hurt. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is one of the main accused. Investigations are on. Action will be taken,” said SSP Bathinda Naunihal Singh.
Violent clashes between Sikh religious groups and Dera Sacha Sauda supporters have disrupted life in the state since May 15.
One person is dead and several others have been injured in these clashes. With the Sikh clergy upping the ante once again and Dera intensifying the face-off, the situation is likely to remain tense in the coming days.

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