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Friday, June 29, 2007

Latest Breaking News from Punjab: Friday 29th June 2007
Dera Row: Khalsa panel splits; Sant Samaj recalls 2

Amritsar, In a major jolt to the Sikh hardliners, who have been spearheading a campaign against Dera Sacha Sauda, the 15-member Khalsa Action Committee (KCA) has been split, a day before its crucial meeting scheduled to be held at Fatehgarh Sahib. An emergency meeting of Sant Samaj has decided to withdraw its two members from the committee. President of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee Parmjit Singh Sarna, who had played an important role in eliciting the fresh apology from the dera, has already dissociated from the committee.
Talking to The Tribune, chief of the Damdami Taksal Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa said the emergency meeting of the Sant Samaj, held at Zira today, decided in principle to withdraw its both members, Sukhchain Singh and Baljit Singh Daduwal, from the committee. However, former Jathedar of Akal Takht Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode said he would attend tomorrow’s meeting. The Damdami Taksal chief said the Sant Samaj would abide by the directive of the Jathedar of Akal Takht, who had given a call to hold a Sikh conclave at Ratia in Haryana in July to demand the arrest of Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim.

The day after, dera followers take out protest march

Sirsa, The ongoing conflict between Sikhs and dera followers has further aggravated. While holding a protest march the Dera Sacha Sauda today blamed Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for rejection of their fresh apology letter by Akal Takht alleging that Badal did not want to resolve the dispute for political gains.
The dera claimed that the fresh apology letter was issued only after SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar and the CM were made aware of the contents of the letter and both had assured the mediators that the apology would end the row between the two sides.
While talking to newsmen during the dharna staged by hundreds of dera followers outside the DC office, the chief spokesman of the dera, Aditya Arora, added that Badal got the apology rejected as he did not want the credit to go to the president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee Paramjit Singh Sarna, who took the initiative to resolve the dispute between Sikhs and dera followers.

Dera Apology Issue Cong questions role of govt

Chandigarh, Giving a new twist to the Dera Sacha Sauda controversy, the Congress today stalled the working of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha charging the ruling SAD-BJP combine with playing politics on the issue and jeopardising the fragile peace of the state.
The act of the Sikh clergy in rejecting the apology of the dera chief and of the Punjab government in allowing his arrest had raised questions and doubts, said leader of the opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal while addressing a press conference after the adjournment of the house here.
She went on to question the “unconstitutional” acts in which the followers of the dera were being victimised. Bhattal could, however, not give a clear reply if dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh should be arrested or not, saying “ everyone’s constitutional rights should be protected”. She said the arrest of the dera chief --- allowed by the Punjab government yesterday --- could create serious law and order problems.
Questioning the rejection of the apology, Bhattal said when every word of the apology was drafted with the consent of the SGPC, Sikh organisations, the Khalsa action committee and representatives of the government, one wondered how it was rejected this time.
She alleged “some doubts have been created about the role of the ruling combine in getting the apology rejected” and asked: “What is the motive in rejecting the apology”?
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal should have called an all-party meeting on the dera issue and explained what action he proposed to take. By allowing the arrest, Badal had acted on his own and the damage it could cause remained to be seen. Bhattal launched an attack on the Chief Minister for being absent from the Vidhan Sabha and not explaining the stance of the government on the issue and also on Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha Nirmal Singh Kahlon, alleging that he was behaving like a Speaker of the SAD and not of the entire house.
Bhattal was irked when the Speaker disallowed an adjournment motion moved by her in the house seeking a discussion on the law and order situation. ''We wanted to highlight atrocities on Congress workers, 121 false cases and yesterday’s development on Dera Sacha Sauda that could lead to serious law and order problems, but were not permitted to do so by the Speaker'', Bhattal said.
She described the Speaker’s ruling as undemocratic.
Asked about the call for a social boycott of dera followers given by Akal Takht last month, Bhattal said: " It is the duty of the government to ensure the safety of its citizens".
This morning in the assembly, once question hour ended, pandemonium prevailed when Bhattal sought to raise the issue, saying her party had moved an adjournment motion seeking a debate on the law and order situation in the state.
The Speaker said there was "no urgency". Noticing the attitude of the Speaker towards their demand, the members of the opposition started anti-government sloganeering. They went into the well and staged a vociferous protest, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the house for an hour.
When the house reassembled, the opposition members again trooped into the well and disrupted the proceedings, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the house for the second time.
However, during the second adjournment, the opposition members squatted in the well and started making impromptu speeches on the law and order situation and the dera row.
The Speaker's repeated requests to opposition leader Bhattal to exercise control over her party members was ignored, which compelled him to adjourn the house till tomorrow morning.

Dera Chief’s Acts Panthak panel sought

Amritsar, Demanding the setting up of a “panthak” commission to look into the acts of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in the past, Sikh organisation the Gursikh and its wing the ‘Shahibaz Khalsa’ here today presented copies of newspapers brought out by the Dera and contents on the Dera websites.
At a press conference Ratinder Singh Indore, president of the Gursikh, an organisation devoted to research and investigation, said now the situation had gone much beyond an apology by the Dera chief. “There are documentats of his hurting religious sentiments of Sikh in the past as well and a commission should look into these,” he said.
Akal Takht has the right to forgive but for that the Dera chief should first appear at Akal Takht as an ordinary Sikh if he wanted to be forgiven, he said.
The Gursikh leaders also screened footage from news channels, showing the Dera chief sitting atop the religious symbol of Sikhs. “We have also found objectionable contents in the Dera’s newspaper, “Sachi Siksha” and on the three websites of the Dera,” said Indore.
A delegation of the Gursikh gave a memorandum to the Sikh high priests yesterday, demanding a commission, with intellectuals, advocates, judges and media persons as its members.
Indore also condemned the way Akal Takht was being pressurised by the Akali Dal and the SGPC by giving political colour to the entire Dera Sacha Sauda issue.

Pressured Jathedars Reject Latest Sirsa Letter

Amritsar Sahib (KP) - The Jathedars of the five Takhts rejected the latest supposed apology issued by the Sirsa Sauda Dera, dashing the hopes of middlemen who had promoted the letter as the final closure to the cult controversy.
According to Panthic observers, the stage was already set for the Jathedars to “forgive” the cult dera chief. The so-called apology letter had arrived a week ago, one copy was distributed to the press, another one ‘sealed’ in an envelope that was to be opened by only the Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib. There was pressure from all sides for the Jathedars to close up this controversy soon.
In fact, Paramjit Sarna of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) had prematurely announced the controversy was over. He, along with Harnam Singh Dhumma and Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh, distanced themselves from the Khalsa Action Committee (KAC), and refused to participate in the protest march organized last weekend.
Akal Takht Secretariat turned into a Police Station
A large amount of Sangat had begun to gather outside the courtyard of Sri Akal Takht Sahib while the Jathedars were deliberating inside. The Akal Takht Secretariat has become a virtual Punjab Police sub-station. A local SSP and DSP, along with scores of Punjab Police officers were present in the Secretariat lobby, in civilian uniform. No one from the Sangat was being allowed in or out without their permission.
Due to the friction between the Jathedars and KAC, a sub-committee consisting of 5 representatives from KAC was dispatched to Akal Takht Sahib but they were snubbed by the Jathedars who refused to meet with them.
Pressure for Panthic organizations
Along with the KAC, the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Dal Khalsa, GURSIKH/Shahbaaz Khalsa , Akali Dal (Amritsar), and Bhai Ram Singh of Damdami Taksal Sangrawan all forwarded their appeals to the Jathedars to not forgive the dera chief.
GURSIKH and Shahbaaz Khalsa present further evidence against dera chief
Along with others, the representatives of the Panthic organization GURSIKH and Shahbaaz Khalsa waited for several hours outside Akal Takht Sahib. According to them, they had further damning evidence against the dera chief. This entire set of evidence included several videos, 79 copies of original newspapers, over 60 original magazines, dozens of photographs, produced and printed by the Sirsa cult. The printed content contained highly objectionable content that would be considered blasphemous to the Sikh Nation.
After continuous pressure from outside, three representatives, Bhai Ratinder Singh Indore, Bhai Sukhmander Singh Karmuwala, and Bhai Avtar Singh Delhi were allowed to enter. After painstakingly collecting the original publications printed by the dera, the GURSIKH-Shahbaaz Khalsa representatives had researched the contents and highlighted the objectionable material for ease of reference.
GURSIKH representatives stated to the Jathedars that the Sirsa based cult has a long history of distorting Sikhi and Gurmat principles, so apologies should be out of the question. After viewing the presented evidence, along with ongoing pressure from Panthic organizations, it would have been very difficult for the Jathedars to forgive the dera chief.
GURSIKH-Shahbaaz Khalsa requested that the Jathedars create a fact-finding panel that would research in depth the distortion and mis-parchar being promoted by the dera. They also requested that the Jathedars summon Parmjit Sarna and any other Sikh leaders who secretly held meetings with Sirsa dera representatives and violated the Hukamnamas issued by Akal Takht Sahib.
In the end, the Panthic representatives requested the Jathedars to summon a Sarbat Khalsa if they were not capable of handling this issue in the proper manner. The Jathedars have now heard the message loud and clear.

Apology Rejected, Boycott to Continue
After the GURSIKH-Shahbaaz Khalsa left, the Jathedars further deliberated and finally issued two Gurmattas, one rejecting the purported apology and labeled it as a mere ‘unsigned press release’, and continuation of the dera boycott, the second one criticized the treatment of Sikhs in Haryana and called for a Panthic meeting on the 11th of July.

According Panthic sources, the purported apology was a result of several surreptitious meetings held between the head of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) Paramjit Sarna, representatives of the Sauda cult, and certain Congress Party officials. In one of the key meetings, held at the residence of Punjab Police SSP RS Khatrra, Sarna met with cult representatives Gurbaz Sinh, Ram Sinh, Ram Saroop, Ramkarn Sinh and Congress Party official Harminder Jassi. Jassi’s son is married to the dera chief’s daughter.
Liquor Baron Involved
Interestingly, the entire set of meetings that took place had been orchestrated by liquor baron Ponty Chadda with blessings from both the Congress Party and the Akali Government of Parkash Badal. Ponty is a close relative of Paramjit Sarna of the DSGMC, and the main distributor behind the controversial film “Bole So Nihal.”
Sarna Blames Bittu, Dhumma
Paramjit Sarna, on the other hand, expressed regret that the Jathedars did not accept the apology. He vented his frustrations at other members of the KAC, in particular Daljit S. Bittu, Harnam S. Dhumma, and Jasbir Singh Rode. He alleged that Avtar Makkar, Parkash Badal, Bittu, Dhumma, and Rode all had advance knowledge of the clandestine meetings between the dera and him and they reassured him that they would support the outcome. “I am not disheartened, but feel hurt that they [Bittu, Dhumma, and Rode] have backed away from their initial stand, this should not have happened.”
The Khalsa Action Committee has called for a meeting on the 29th on the Sirsa issue, observers feel there might be some introspection by the organization and possible action taken against Sarna and associates.

Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh Retracts ?

Damdama Sahib (KP) – Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh who is revered as somewhat more panthic than other Jathedars received the wrath of the Sikh Sangat after the Khalsa Action March finalized at Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib. Jathedar Nandgarh had remained absent from the whole march but upon the finalization, when he approached to welcome the Sangat, Khalsa Action Committee members rejected his siropas.
Although no reasons were supplied by Jathedar Nandgarh regarding his absence from the march, various assumptions were made by other leaders who were present there. It should be noted that during the initial Panthic meet at Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib, Jathedar Nandgarh played a big role in getting Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and other Jathedars to reconsider issuing a more suitable hukamnama to tackle the Dera Sacha Sauda issue.
After this incident, it came to light that Parkash Badal in particular had not appreciated the stand taken by Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh and for that reason, the SAD (B) and SGPC had tried putting pressure on him to resign from his post. Although Jathedar Nandgarh prevailed by not resigning, it appeared from his absence that the warnings of Parkash Badal and other SGPC officials did some work. It should be kept in mind that similar to the cases of Vedanti and other Jathedars, Balwant Singh Nandgarh was appointed as Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib's Jathedar after the approval of Parkash Badal. In addition, Jathedar Nandgarh has long enjoyed proximity with Kirpal Singh Badungar, an SGPC supremo.
While addressing the press after the finalization of the protest march, some leaders expressed that Jathedar Nandgarh had not stayed true to his words, as he along with Paramjit S. Sarna, had accepted the 'phony' apology of Gurmeet Ram Rahim without having discussed the matter in detail with other Panthic leaders. Surprisingly, it also came to light that Jathedar Nandgarh had tried to contact several leaders to get the march canceled or delayed.
Khalsa Action Committee members told the Sangat to be wary of the about-faces of the so-called 'Panthic' leaders. Unless our Jathedars start to fulfill their Panthic obligations, the Sikh Sangat should not buy into their agenda.

Koorra Sauda Followers Gather in Sirsa

Sirsa, Haryana (KP) - Thousands of followers of Koorra Sauda gathered in Sirsa at the headquarters of the Dera, showing support for their leader, pakhandee Gurmeet Raam Raheem. Followers gathered to brainstorm ways to counter alleged "excesses on the Dera followers by some anti-social elements."
Dera followers called the meeting shortly after the conditional arrest warrant was issued for their leader. Members and representatives from all over India were in attendance at the meeting.
Tensions in Punjab rose between Sikhs and followers of the Dera after the Dera leader disrespected Guru Gobind Singh Jee by imitating the way Guru Gobind Singh Jee is depicted and mocking the Amrit Sanchaar in May of this year. Since then, many clashes between Sikhs and Dera followers have occurred.
Meanwhile, many dera 'premis' stated that their faith in the dera had been shaken and the Hukumnama issued from Takht Sri Damdama Sahib regarding excommunication of dera followers had made them realize the truth. Hundreds of followers are now converting to Sikhi and have sworn to follow only Sri Guru Granth Sahib from now on.
Because of the tension, additional polices forces have been deployed to keep an eye on the situation. Tight security was also provided around the Dera for this meeting; this is in addition to the Cult leader’s "Z Plus" security.

Dera issue blowing into political controversy

CHANDIGARH: The issue of dera Sacha Sauda is expected to blow into a major political controversy with dera authorities also drawing battle lines against Sikh community. The dera has also sought the help of President of India and Union government to rescue it from the criris.
The tension has brewed in Sirsa the headquater of dera Sacha Sauda after Punjab government granted permission to Punjab police to arrest the dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh wanted by Bathinda police in a case of blasphemy.
The Dera Sacha Sauda has approached President A P J Abdul Kalam and demanded dismissal of the Punjab government for "politically manipulating" the sequence of events in the wake of the controversy involving its head despite the sect's efforts to broker peace with Sikhs. The dera has demanded immediate withdrawl of case against dera head.
The Congress led center government in Delhi is unlikely to react immediately to the demand of dera. However, Congress may try to use the issue for political offensive against ruling Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD).
The action committee of the dera, in a letter to Kalam, also demanded registration of case against those who are allegedly committing excesses on its followers. The committee also sought action against those who had vandalised the property of Dera followers at different places in Punjab, the sect's spokesman Aditya Insaan said.
"All false cases registered against our followers by police should be withdrawn immediately," the committee demanded in the letter, copies of which were also sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister Shivraj Patil and governors of Punjab and Haryana.
Insaan said despite the Dera chief apologising to Gobind Singh -- the tenth Sikh Guru -- Sikh clerics "failed to respond positively". He alleged forcible conversions of Hindus and Dalits were taking place. "Those involved in forcible stopping of 'naam charcha' (religious recitation) must be arrested immediately," he said. "We are also exploring all legal options...When the police will arrive to arrest Dera chief, we will then decide what action needs to be taken," he said.

Echoes of dera Sacha Sauda issue heard in Punjab assembly

CHANDIGARH: The echoes of dera Sacha Sauda controversy were on Thursday heard in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha and house was adjourned twice following slogan shouting by Congress MLA's who wanted debate on current law and order situation in Punjab.
Punjab government had yesterday given permission to Punjab police to arrest dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh in a case of blasphemy registered against him in Bathinda.
Leader of the opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal had moved an adjournment motion to discuss law and order situation, which was not accepted by Speaker Nirma Singh Kahlon. The speaker said that law and order issue had been discussed at length during debate on budget.
Bhattal immediately after zero hour requested the Speaker to allow the adjournment motion because she wanted to discuss yesterday's happenings on law and order, without making specific mention of rejection of second apology of dera chief by Akal Takht. Though outside the house she clarified that she wanted to discuss law and order situation arising out of dera controversy.
Speaker told the leader of opposition that he had not yet studied the adjournment motion. The Congress MLA'a came to the well of the house and started raising slogans. Speaker adjourned the house for one hour at 11 AM. The Congress MLA's however continued to sit in the house. When house assembled again at 12 o'clock, the Congress MLA's again demanded discussion on adjournment motion. Speaker rejected the request saying that he had gone through the motion. there is nothing new in it. 'The house has already discussed law and order", he ruled.
When Congress MLA's continued to disturb the house, speaker adjourned it for the day. BJP ministers Tikshan Sood and Manoranjan Kalia condemned the attitude of Congress leaders and described it undemocratic.
Later, Bhattal at a press conference condemned the attitude of Speaker for not allowing them to speak on burning issue. She said that serious law and problem could arise with the arrest of dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Guirmit Ram Rahim Singh. She said that Akalis had enacted drama by rejecting apology by dera. She said that SAD leaders and Akal Takht Jathedar knew the contents of apology but they preferred to dramatise it. She said that dera had apologized twice. She said that Sikh Gurus have always advocated that who pardons is bigger than the sinner. She said that arrest of dera head must be avoided.
She also alleged vendetta against Congress leaders and workers by SAD-BJP government. She said that they would continue to raise voice in the house.

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