Sectarian tension continues
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Home / India News / 2007 / May 2007 / May 19, 2007
Sectarian tension continues for Day 6 in Punjab
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Sectarian tension continues for Day 6 in Punjab

Punjab continued to remain tense on Saturday following several days of clashes between Sikh organizations and followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS).In Jalandhar, life came to a virtual standstill following a shutdown call given by several Hindu and Sikh religious organisations.

Jalandhar (Punjab), May 19 : Punjab continued to remain tense on Saturday following several days of clashes between Sikh organizations and followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS).In Jalandhar, life came to a virtual standstill following a shutdown call given by several Hindu and Sikh religious organisations.

Businesses and shops remained closed as activists of the ruling Akali Dal party and its youth wing marched through streets brandishing swords and shouting slogans.

"We have called this shutdown to protest the insult on our Guru Gobind Singh by the Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh by dressing up like him and distributing holy water. The Sikh community will not tolerate this," said Parmindar Pal Singh Khalsa, Senior Vice President of the Youth Akali Dal (Badal Faction).

The clashes began on Monday after the controversial leader of Dera Sacha Sauda sect, which combines social work with spirituality, dressed up as Guru Gobind Singh, the revered 17th century Sikh guru.

Sikhs came out on streets and burnt effigies of the sect leader in Amritsar, Ludhiana and Khanna in Punjab. Brandishing traditional swords and sticks, Sikh youths forced shopkeepers to down shutters.

A man was shot dead by an unidentified gunman outside the sect's compound in Sunam city, while dozens of people were injured in clashes in several parts of the state.

Thousands of security personnel have been deployed across Punjab.

Apart from state police, over 10,000 armed central police have been sent to Punjab and the neighbouring state of Haryana. The army has also been put on alert.

Fearing an escalation of violence, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh appealed for calm.

Meanwhile, Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh has apologised to the Sikh community for hurting their sentiments.

"I had no intention of imitating or being disrespectful to Guru Gobind Singh. I had absolutely no intention of equating myself with Guru Gobind Singh. This misunderstanding that is causing a lot of needles harm and it should be cleared," he said.

The Dera sect, which has tens of thousands of followers, says it is a social organisation that believes in the oneness of god and does not adhere to a particular faith, though its leader wears a turban and has a long beard in the Sikh style.

ANI

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