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Dera controversy: Sikh high priests take tough stance

Last updated on: May 20, 2007 21:00 IST

Rejecting Dera Sacha Sauda's expression of "regret", the five Sikh high priests on Sunday called for a Punjab bandh on May 22 to protest against the Dera head's alleged act of blasphemy imitating tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.

The priests gave the call for the bandh in a fresh hukamnama (edict) at the end of their two-hour crucial meeting at the Akal Takht in the Golden Temple hours after the police in Bathinda filed a case against Baba Ram Rahim Singh for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

Peaceful processions should be taken out on May 22, Akal Takht jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti announced before a large congregation of Sikhs in Amritsar after presiding over the meeting.

The priests in their edict asked the Punjab government to ensure the closure of all the Deras in the state by May 27.

The edict also said Sikhs would present a memorandum to the governors of Punjab and Haryana after taking out a protest march from Fatehgarh Sahab on May 31.

The meeting also decided to submit a memorandum to the President, prime minister, Union home minister and other Central officials by May 30 for expediting the CBI probe against the Dera chief, which is on in connection with cases of murder and alleged rape in the complex at Sirsa in Haryana.

Vedanti said the future course of action would be reviewed on May 31.

Describing as tricky the regret statement issued by the Dera, Vedanti said the priests after having had consultations with various Sikh organisations decided to reject the same.

The protest by the Sikhs against the anti-religious activities of the Dera has to be peaceful, the priests said in their edict.

Vedanti alleged the Dera chief has hurt the religious sentiments of the Sikhs by giving an advertisement attired in clothes similar to that of Guru Gobind Singh and also by giving amrit (nectar) to his followers in violation of Sikh traditions.

He said the Sikhs have to lodge a peaceful protest against the "merciless beating" of their fellow men by the Dera supporters.

While taking out protest marches the community has to remain in their senses while showing its anger, Vedanti said.

Earlier, addressing the congregation, jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahab Balwant Singh Nandgarh said the Dera chief is guilty of not only hurting the Sikhs, but also entire mankind.

"Today he imitated our Guru Gobind Singh, tomorrow he may copy gurus and saints of other religions, including Muslims, Christians and even Ram," he said.

Meanwhile, there was some tense moments when the meeting of the head priests was in progress.

A policeman carrying a gun was beaten up by SGPC workers who also had a scuffle with mediapersons near the venue of the meeting.

Assistant Sub-Inspector Lakhbir Singh faced the wrath of the SGPC task force when he allegedly tried to sneak into the meeting area in the Akal Takht premises, official sources said in Amritsar.

The ASI received injuries on various parts of his body but was out of danger, the sources said.

The SGPC workers also had a scuffle with some mediapersons, especially from the electronic channels, as they tried to go close to the scene of attack, the sources said.

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