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Home / India News / 2007 / May 2007 / May 22, 2007
Sikhs shutdown Punjab, Jammu against Dera chiefs sacrilege
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Sikhs shutdown Punjab, Jammu against Dera chiefs sacrilege

Shops, businesses and schools in Punjab and Jammu remained closed on Tuesday, as thousands of Sikhs obeyed a call by their religious leaders to go on strike in protest against Dera Sacha Sauda, whom they accuse of sacrilege.

Amritsar/Jammu, May 22 : Shops, businesses and schools in Punjab and Jammu remained closed on Tuesday, as thousands of Sikhs obeyed a call by their religious leaders to go on strike in protest against Dera Sacha Sauda, whom they accuse of sacrilege.

In Jammu, Sikh youths and members of the Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee, took to the streets on two-wheelers, raising slogans and burning tyres, as the valley's winter capital observed a shutdown called by several Sikh organisations.

They even burnt an effigy of Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh, and demanded that the Governments of Punjab and Haryana along with the Central Government bring the criminal to book.

Protestors went around the city requesting shopkeepers and businessmen to observe the shutdown and support their fight against the blasphemous leader.

"We are not going to keep quiet till that man (Dera Chief) isn't arrested. This fire is going to spread across the country. We request the Badal Government, the Haryana Government and the Central Government that they should arrest this man and put him behind bars. He is responsible for so many murders and atrocities against people. If this doesn't happen soon, then we will not stop our protests," said Pappu Sardar, member of the Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee.

The Pathankote-Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was closed by the protesters bringing traffic to a halt in the region.

Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur and Poonch were the worst affected Districts.

Security has been tightened in the city, officials said.

A large number of people are expected to participate in a massive protest rally scheduled from Digiana Gurdwara.

Meanwhile, streets in Amritsar also remained deserted, with shops locked down and children staying at home.

Thousands of armed police guarded roads to prevent any untoward incident following last week's clashes in which at least one person had died and 50 were injured.

Residents said they now felt safe with the police and paramilitary forces out there to protect them.

"With the deployment of paramilitary forces we are feeling a little safe now. But, they should take care that such incidents do not occur again. As of now, we are feeling safe because of their arrival," said Deepinder Singh, an advocate.

Superintendent of Police Surinder Singh Sidhu assured that all security personnel were on their toes and would ensure a calm atmosphere.

"All precautionary measures have been taken to avoid any untoward incident. SP, DSP, SHO and personnel of the paramilitary forces are keeping an eye at all check posts and crossings," he said.

In Bhatinda, a similar scene prevailed.

Residents felt the Dera chief needed to apologise for his actions and put a stop to all this violence.

"As far as the head of the sect is concerned, he should apologise. An apology from him can change the current atmosphere in the country," said Sukhdev Singh, a local resident.

The clashes began last week after Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh, the controversial leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, which combines spirituality with social work, dressed up as Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikh community.

Skirmishes between rival groups flared into mob violence on Thursday when the Sikh religion's highest spiritual body, the Akal Takht, urged Sikhs to boycott the sect.

Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh has denied any wrongdoing, even as Sikh leaders have demanded an apology from him.

In some towns, Sikhs gathered for protest marches, but police quickly dispersed them. Authorities forbade meetings of more than five people on Tuesday to avert possible violence.

"Law and order would be maintained at all costs and no one would be allowed to resort to hooliganism or disturb peace," Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said.

Badal said no Sikh would be allowed to carry arms or brandish traditional swords during the protests.

Lawyers in many cities also decided to stay away from the courts.

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, although its leader wears a turban and has a long beard in the Sikh style.


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