Religious sect apologises for Sikh insult

A religious sect has apologised for adverts showing its leader dressed as a revered Sikh guru, which triggered violence in India’s Punjab state, reports said on Monday.

The Dera Sacha Sauda sect offered the apology at Sirsa, the group’s headquarters in the northern state of Haryana, the Tribune newspaper said.

The multi-faith organisation claims to have millions of Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh followers.

The brief statement noted that in the “best interest of peace and tranquillity, the Dera tenders an apology to Guru Gobind Singh,” the Press Trust of India news agency said.

“We also pray for maintaining peace and brotherhood in Punjab, Haryana, within the country and abroad,” the statement added.

The sect’s leader, Gurmit Ram Raheem Singh, appeared in an newspaper advert as Guru Gobind Singh, one of 10 revered saints in the religion, and was pictured offering holy water to the faithful.

The advert upset the main Sikh religious governing body, the Akal Takht, and triggered violent protests in the Punjab earlier this month that left one dead and scores injured.

Sikh leaders and state and federal officials had pressed the sect’s leader for an apology to calm tensions in the state, where a religion-fuelled separatist revolt claimed thousands of lives in the 1980s.

That conflict was fanned after prime minister Indira Gandhi ordered troops into the Golden Shrine at Amritsar to evict a Sikh militant sect in 1984. Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards shot her dead later the same year.

Some news reports said the carefully worded apology by the sect may not mollify the Akal Takht, which is scheduled to meet in Amritsar on Tuesday to review the issue.

Punjab, which has a population of 25-million, is India’s only Sikh-majority state. Sikhs make up nearly two percent of India’s 1.1-billion population.

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AFP, via, France
May 28, 2007

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This post was last updated: Monday, May 28, 2007 at 1:40 PM, Central European Time (CET)