India Politics
Punjab peaceful, police withdraw security for Dera chief
May 19, 2007 - 8:36:47 PM

Chandigarh, May 19 - Punjab witnessed a normal day Saturday after five days of sectarian clashes even as the state police withdrew the security cover of the controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief at his headquarters in Haryana.

The move to withdraw the security cover of Gurmit Ram Rahim comes just hours before a 72-hour ultimatum served on the Akali Dal government by the Sikh clergy to arrest the godman ends Sunday noon.

In a related development, the Punjab government transferred Bathinda district police chief Naresh Kumar and posted him in Chandigarh. Bathinda witnessed sectarian clashes on Monday and Tuesday between the Sikh community and followers of the dera sect over the godman appearing dressed as 10th Sikh guru Gobind Singh.

Kumar has been made in-charge of community policing. Naunihal Singh will be the new Bathinda senior superintendent of police -.

'We have withdrawn the Punjab Police security provided to the dera chief. The security cover had been given to him by the previous Congress government,' Director General of Police N.P.S. Aulakh said here.

The police security cover for the sect chief comprised four personal security officers, who all were asked Saturday to report back to Punjab.

Meanwhile, the Damdami Taksal chief, Harnam Singh Khalsa, said that the deadline for the arrest of the chief of the heretical sect would be strictly adhered to and the Sikh community will then decide its further course of action.

The Sikh clergy, which gave the 72-hour deadline to the Punjab government Thursday at its meeting at Talwandi Sabo near Bathinda, will meet again at the Akal Takht - the highest temporal seat of Sikhs - in the Golden Temple complex Sunday afternoon.

The state remained peaceful Saturday for the first time this week.

A strike call given by the Youth Akali Dal evoked a complete response in Jalandhar city, 150 km from here, with all shops and business establishments remaining closed. Vehicular movement was minimal in the city.

Aulakh said that except for some confectionery establishments being set on fire in Barnala town, stopping of a train at Dhilwan near Ludhiana and rallies held in six towns, the situation in the state was peaceful.

He added that 42 companies of paramilitary forces, rushed to the state by the central government, conducted flag marches at various places.

The state's political and police leadership was now focussing on Sunday's meeting of Sikh organisations at the Akal Takht. The Sikh community will decide on its next course of action at this meeting.

The Taksal chief said that the sect godman should appear before the Akal Takht high priests and seek forgiveness for posing as the revered Sikh guru in a photograph. 'This will satisfy the Sikhs,' he added.

The Damdami Taksal, a hardline Sikh group based at Chowk Mehta near Amritsar, also accused the sect chief of being responsible for the violence in Punjab this week.

The sect chief had Friday released a CD saying he could never think of showing disrespect to the Sikh guru or try to dress like him. He said a misunderstanding had been created.

One person was killed and nearly 100 injured in sectarian violence across Punjab in the past five days, especially in the cotton-rich Malwa belt in south Punjab.

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