Religious Violence in Eastern Punjab

The Indian state of Punjab has been gripped with a religious crisis witnessed by this citizen reporter over the last five days.

The Sikh community in Punjab stood up against a religious leader, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, of the Dera Sacha Sauda religious sect.

Members of this sect believe that all religions are equal and no religion is superior or inferior. This sect has about 200,000 followers in North India under the leadership of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

The adopted name of the head, Gurmeet “the name most adopted by Sikhs,” Ram “a name adopted by Hindus, and Rahim ” a name adopted by Muslims,” shows that for this sect all religions are equal.

Now five high Sikh priests have issued orders to socially boycott the Dera Sacha Sauda sect and have served an ultimatum to the government to arrest Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and take action against him by May 20. Otherwise, they threaten, the Sikh community will take all things in their hands.

How the Matter Started

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, appeared publicly while wearing the dress of Guru Gobind Singh (tenth and the last religious and spiritual leader of the Sikh community all over the world) and preached to his followers at Bhatinda place of Punjab last week.

The whole Sikh community and clergy alleged that Gurmeet pretended to be Guru Gobind Singh and that it’s an insult to their leader and they are on the side of running anti-Sikh activities.

On the other hand, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh told the press people that all the allegations framed against him are false and he didn’t wear the dress of the Guru at all.

The Protests Spread Beyond Punjab

Many Sikh organizations and student groups are carrying out the protests against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in different parts of Punjab. In Bhatinda, part of Punjab, Sikh followers attacked the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda sect with swords and sticks.

I have seen Sikhs with naked swords and old traditional weapons raising slogans against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Effigies of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh are being set on fire at Nada Sahib, a religious place near my city.

Talking to many of them they were saying that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is a bad man and that he insulted the sentiments of the whole Sikh community.

Whereas talking to some of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s followers near my place, I found that they think Gurmeet has done nothing, and that this is only an attempt to malign his reputation. They say there is no question of apologizing when the Sikhs insult their leader while burning his effigies and raising naked swords.

The big cities of Punjab like Patiala, Amritsar, Jallandhar, Nawanshahar and others are observing the protests in the form of the closing of all shops, schools, colleges and other institutions. At some places the Sikh followers have had some clashes with the followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

The matter is not confined to the Punjab state only, it has reached New Delhi, Rajasthan, Jammu and Bhopal states where Sikhs are protesting openly with the naked swords and other weapons.

The effigy of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is being burnt at all places by Sikhs. On the other side, Dera Sacha Sauda followers are also gathering at the places where they dominate maximum attention and are raising slogans against the politicians for the entire incident.

The Situation Became Violent in the State

The fire of faith turned into hateful violence when in the Sunam area of Punjab, the clashes occurred between the Sikhs and the Dera followers. A man died and 15 people were injured.

In Karnal, the part of the neighboring state of Punjab, Dera followers protested against the Sikhs and even attacked the police who had gathered to disperse them.

Raising swords, sticks and guns in the air, the Sikhs are angry to take revenge against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

A Sikh student raising a naked sword in the air openly claimed that Gurmeet has insulted their leader and that he should be punished so that in future this could not happen.

Clashes are gaining grounds in the state. The first planned armed attacks were carried out yesterday at Dera quarters located in different places of Punjab, where Sikhs not only attacked but destroyed the quarters.

The Whole of North India in the Spell of Fear

After the violent clashes the whole North India has come under the spell of fear. One of my relatives living in New Delhi talked to me on the phone and they have not come out from their place since yesterday after watching the violent clashes on television.

A lot of relatives are in fear and are making the phone calls to my place, which is in the capital of the Punjab state. Police parties are also patrolling in our areas to see to law and order.

No incident has yet occurred in Chandigarh but police are girding their loins to not take the risk.

Paramilitary Forces Deployed in the State

After violent and aggressive clashes, the central government has issued orders to send the paramilitary force to the state. Nearly 50 companies of paramilitary forces have been rushed to the state and are being deployed in the sensitive areas of Punjab.

In some parts of the national capital the police force is also being deployed.

In Haryana state, where the headquarters of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh are located; police have deployed forces at the borders so that Dera followers could not rush towards the Punjab to protest against the Sikhs.

The Government Machinery Under a Cloud

The ruling party of Punjab — Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) — seems to be under a cloud for not handling the situation properly. The state ministers are urging the public to be calm and maintain peace while in this situation.

The politicians are putting blame on each other for the entire situation. All the parties are blaming the opponents for the situation but the matter seems not to be under the control of the government.

The ultimatum served by the Sikh priests could put the entire state in a violent situation because the Sikhs won’t step down at any cost and Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is not ready to apologize.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Ohmy News, South Korea
May 18, 2007
Munish Nagar

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This post was last updated: Friday, May 18, 2007 at 9:05 AM, Central European Time (CET)