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Home / India News / 2007 / May 2007 / May 18, 2007
Akal Takht Jathedar rules out talks with Dera Sacha Sauda, sets May 20 deadline for its ban
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Akal Takht Jathedar rules out talks with Dera Sacha Sauda, sets May 20 deadline for its ban

The Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, on Friday ruled out any discussion with the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) till the State Government either arrested, or took suitable action against Gurmeet Ram Raheem, the head of DSS, for acting in a blasphemous manner by imitating Guru Gobind Singh, tenth Sikh Guru.Talking to reporters here, Vedanti said Sikhs living around the world abide by the instructions given by the five priests (Panj Pyare), and now it was the governments duty to ban DSS activities across Punjab.

By Ravinder Singh Robin

Amritsar, May 18 :The Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, on Friday ruled out any discussion with the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) till the State Government either arrested, or took suitable action against Gurmeet Ram Raheem, the head of DSS, for acting in a blasphemous manner by imitating Guru Gobind Singh, tenth Sikh Guru.Talking to reporters here, Vedanti said Sikhs living around the world abide by the instructions given by the five priests (Panj Pyare), and now it was the government's duty to ban DSS activities across Punjab.

"There are reports of more than 70 Deras working in the Malwa belt of Punjab," Vedanti said, adding that these needed to be vacated and banned.Giani Iqbal Singh, the Jathedar of Takht Patna Sahib, told ANI on Friday that Gurmeet Ram Raheem was responsible for the violence in Punjab by daring to imitate Guru Gobind Singh. He said that if the State Government was not in a position to stop this malpractice, the situation could worsen and spread overseas.

Giani Iqbal Singh said that he smelt a conspiracy against Sikhs and Punjab by an anti-Sikh lobby in India. Such moves, he said, would be foiled.

He said that the Sikh high priests have given the State Government till May 20 to ban the DSS in Punjab.

On Friday, Punjab continued to remain in a state of high alert, as angry Sikhs and DSS followers refused to back away from their respective stances. Tension prevailed in several towns of the State after protests and clashes on Thursday over a newspaper picture showing the Dera Sacha Sauda leader dressed like the tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh.

Tight security has been imposed across Punjab and in Sirsa in Haryana, which is the Dera Sauda base where thousands of Dera followers have gathered. Anticipating trouble, the police have banned large gatherings in several towns in Punjab.

The Prime Minister Office and the Home Ministry are also in constant touch with the State Government.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has called for an all party meeting to discuss the present crisis, even as no signs exist for a truce as yet. The Akal Takht is insisting on an apology, while the Dera Sacha Sauda has said that they have nothing to apologise for.

The Dera, however, has withdrawn the demand for President's Rule in Punjab. It has also vowed to stay away from violent protests.

Sikh protesters in Ludhiana have forced shopkeepers and business establishments to shut down. The Haryana police meanwhile have sealed the state's border at Dabwali to prevent Dera supporters from going over to Punjab.

But many Dera supporters demonstrated at Sirsa, shouting slogans against the Punjab government.

The latest flashpoint in Punjab came after the SGPC, the apex body which controls all Sikh gurudwaras, called for a boycott of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect.

Late on Thursday evening, one Sikh protestor was killed and 20 others were injured in a clash with the police at Sonam, 100 km from Bathinda.

The Dera ashram in Mour near Bathinda was damaged. Around 20,000 Sikhs gathered outside another Dera ashram near Salabatpur but the police acted on time.

Earlier in the day, the Akal Takht, the highest decision making body of the Sikhs, issued a hukumnama, calling for a boycott of the Dera and asking the government to take action.

The Dera says it is willing to talk but claims there has been no response from the other side so far.

''We are disappointed that the decision was taken in an environment of no dialogue. There was no dialogue, no negotiation, no effort to understand the other side. I spoke to Sukhbir Singh Badal and assured him that I was ready to appear before him alone and unarmed but his intentions don't seem to be reassuring,'' said Dr Aditya, Spokesperson, Dera Sacha Sauda.

Questions are now being raised as to whether there could be a political reason for the ongoing clashes between Akalis and supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda.

The Dera Sacha Sauda has mass following in the Malwa region of Punjab in places like Bathinda and Patiala, and during the recent assembly elections in Punjab, the Dera had issued a edict to its followers to vote for the Congress. As a result, the Shiromani Akali Dal suffered a setback in the Malwa region.

More than four decades after it was set up as a spiritual and social organization, the Dera Sacha Sauda has been in the news more for controversies than for its voluntary activities. Set up in Sirsa in 1948 by Beparwah Shah Mastana Balochistani, the Dera Sacha Sauda claims it has over two crore members in India and abroad.

The Saccha Sauda recognises one universal god and respects all religions and while it is involved in voluntary social work, it shuns donations in any form.

ANI

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