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PAC MEETING
Dera chief a religious ‘quack’
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 18
President of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, today toughened his stand against the head of Dera Sacha Sauda. At a meeting of the SAD’s political affairs committee( PAC), held here today under the chairmanship of Badal, a strongly worded resolution was passed against the head of the dera.

At the meeting, the PAC thanked all those political parties who have condemned violence in Parliament and sought action against the provocative action of dera chief for his sacrilegious act of replicating the holy practices associated with tenth guru Sri Guru Gobind Singh.

The resolution passed by the PAC described the dera chief as a religious “quack”. Resolution says, “The PAC condemns the heinous act of the religious quack of Sirsa dera in trying to replicate the holy appearance of the great tenth Master Guru Gobind Singh by appearing in a hypocritical dress like the robes graced by the great Guru”.

Besides Badal, senior leaders of the SAD like Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Jagdev Singh Talwandi, Bibi Jagir Kaur, Gurdev Singh Badal, Prem Singh Chanumajra, Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal and Dr Upinderjit Kaur, were present at the meeting.

The PAC resolution further says, “The highly provocative act has sought to pose a grave danger to the peace, amity and communal harmony in Punjab as well as the country. The Sikh masses all over the world are justifiably hurt and angered by this deplorable act.”

Handling of the situation by the state government was also appreciated. “Meeting places on record its appreciation of the restraint, firmness and sure-footed approach displayed by the Punjab Government in dealing with this inflammable situation. Despite grave provocation, the state administration displayed the exemplary patience, farsightedness and firmness in order to save Punjab from the dangerous spin-off of this conspiracy. Because of this sagacious approach, the peace and law and order situation remained totally under control barring three or four unpleasant incidents”, said the PAC resolution.

“The government has been able to safeguard peace and communal harmony from the challenges posed by anti-social elements. No praise will be too high for the unity displayed by Punjabis in exposing and defeating the conspiracy to disturb peace. The PAC appreciates the great unity displayed by people belonging to different communities in Punjab and the country in condemning the heinous attempts to show disrespect to the tenth Master”, said the resolution.

The PAC has urged the Haryana government to come down heavily against anti-social and anti-national elements who were out to disturb hard earned atmosphere of peace and communal harmony in Punjab and the rest of the country. The provocative acts in Sirsa are aimed at destabilising peace and harmony in Punjab.

The PAC has appealed to the entire Khalsa panth, Punjabis and the countrymen to unitedly defeat the latest challenge to peace and communal harmony. This can only be achieved by following the great ideals set before us by the Great Gurus, seers and saints. This meeting appeals to all communities, sects, political parties, organisations and all right thinking people in the country to contribute to the process of safeguarding peace and communal harmony.

 

All-party meeting appeals for restraint
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, leader of opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Punjab Pradesh Congress president Shamsher Singh Dullo at an all-party meeting to discuss the dera row, in Chandigarh on Friday.
Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, leader of opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Punjab Pradesh Congress president Shamsher Singh Dullo at an all-party meeting to discuss the dera row, in Chandigarh on Friday.

Chandigarh, May 18
Differences over wording of the resolution notwithstanding, leaders of various political parties cut across their lines to salute people of Punjab “for preserving and maintaining communal harmony and traditional brotherhood in spite of provocative act to replicate the holy practices associated with 10th Sikh Guru.”

The meeting convened to discuss the situation arising out of violence erupting in the state during the past five days appealed to all Punjabis belonging to various religious organisations, political parties and various institutions and all right thinking persons to maintain traditional Punjabi brotherhood, amity and understanding and preserve the peace and communal harmony at all costs.

Represented by the Punjab Pradesh Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo and the Leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Congress was reluctant to endorse the resolution as presented to the meeting maintaining that condemning or blaming Dera Sacha Sauda for the current spate of violence was not advisable. It was suggested that senior leaders could mediate to diffuse the crisis. One of Congress leaders even offered to talk to the chief of Dera Sacha Sauda for dispelling “misunderstanding, if any, created by any of his acts or of the Dera”.

Interestingly, the Congress leaders did not object to the subsequent portion of the resolution which praised Punjabis for maintaining communal harmony, peace and normalcy in the state. The Congress had been maintaining that there was a complete breakdown of law and order machinery in the state and there was absolute lawlessness.

The resolution, which was drafted by Harcharan Bains, Chief Minister’s media adviser, had subsequent unanimous acceptance from all at the meeting.

After discussions which continued for over 45 minutes over the start of the resolution, leaders of all parties, including those from ruling alliance partner BJP, the BSP, the CPI and the CPM finally endorsed the resolution with Rajinder Kaur Bhattal insisting that she would issue a separate communiqué on behalf of Congress Legislature Party (CLP).

The Shiromani Akali Dal besides chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was represented by Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Kanwaljit Singh, and Prem Singh Chandumajra. The BJP was represented by Rajinder Bhandari, Manoranjan Kalia and Balramji Dass Tondon.

From the Congress Shamsher Singh Dullo, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Avtar Singh Brar and Gurbinder Singh Atwal participated while the CPI was represented by Jagroop Singh, Joginder Dayal, Bant Singh Brar and Bhupinder Sambhar. Prem Singh Bhangu and Jagdeep Singh Lyalpuri represented the MCPI. Avtar Singh Karimpuri (BSP) also attended. Chief Secretary R.I. Singh, Home Secretary B.C. Gupta and DGP NPS Aulakh also attended the meeting.

The following is the resolution adopted at the all party meeting: “This all-party meeting shares with deep concern the pain felt by the Sikh community and all right thinking persons living in Punjab, the country and the rest of the world by the provocative act of trying to replicate the holy practices associated with the tenth Guru Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj. The meeting strongly condemns this act of incitement. It is matter of great satisfaction that Punjabis have stood as one to safeguard the hard earned atmosphere of peace and communal harmony in the State. The normal functioning of all schools, colleges, institutions and normal flow of traffic through out the state proves that despite grave provocation, the people of the State are preserving and maintaining communal harmony and traditional brotherhood. All political parties of Punjab are committed to maintain peace, communal harmony and religious unity and promise to extend full support to the Government on this issue.

 

It’s time for collective efforts: Bhattal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 18
The leader of opposition, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, in a meeting with her party MLAs today, said instead of blaming each other, the moment demanded that politicians make collective efforts to restore peace in Punjab.

“The issue of who was responsible can be settled later by holding an inquiry by a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. But at this stage, it is the politicians’ duty to bring the situation under control in the state,” she said.

Bhattal added that Congress MLAs, who had attended the meeting, had offered to extend all help to the government to establish peace. “We have a lot to say against the SAD-BJP government but it is not the time to do so. We can blast the SAD-BJP government for what has happened during the past few days. However, instead of blaming one another, everybody should try to restore normalcy,” she said.

When asked whether she was in agreement with the “edict” given by the Sikh high priests against the dera chief, she said the Akal Takht always issued the edict. Though the Sikh high priests had given their opinion, the final decision was yet to be taken, she said, adding that they would express their opinion only then.

She said the dera chief had clarified that he had not hurt anybody’s sentiments and that he had no intentions of imitating Guru Gobind Singh. In wake of this, she said the Sikh high priests must consider this before arriving at a final decision.

Bhattal said she would appeal to the dera chief to once again clarify the entire issue. “I appeal to the dera chief to once again express regret over the misunderstanding created because of his dress,” she said, adding that this would help usher in peace.

Asking all religious personalities to help bring things to normal, Bhattal said, “If anyone tries to imitate Guru Gobind Singh, the Congress will be the first to raise its voice.”

She also asked the SGPC to help pacify the situation.

Others present included former minister Lal Singh, Avtar Singh, Amarjit Singh Samra, Kuldeep Singh and all Congress MLAs.

 

Badal: IG-level officer conducting probe

Chandigarh, May 18
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said he would never visit Dera Sacha Sauda again. Admitting that like many other leaders of various political parties he had visited the dera before the Assembly elections, Badal said that then dera chief was not involved in such an act.

“I had never expected that dera chief will do such an action”, said Badal.

Asked whether he would take action against the head of the dera to whom he has blamed for causing a great provocation, Badal said an IG (Zonal) level officer was conducting an inquiry into the matter. The report would be available in a two-three days. The government would take further action on the basis of report, he said.

When asked that Sikh high priests had given an ultimatum to ban the activities of dera chief within three days, Badal said that matter was being looked into. The government would act as per the law. — TNS

 

Flag marches held for peace
Situation tense, but under control
Tribune Reporters

Patiala, May 18
Two companies of the Border Security Force (BSF) today carried out a flag march here today to ensure peace in the wake of clashes between the supporters of various Akali parties and Dera Sacha Sauda.

Deputy commissioner, Patiala, D.S. Grewal said about 150 BSF personal had been deployed in Patiala, Nabha, Samana and Rajpura.

Meanwhile, supporters of Dera Sacha Sauda held a meeting of their followers at a dera located on the Patiala-Sangrur road, about 10 km from here. Thousands of dera followers, who gathered there, wore black head bands to register their protest. They alleged that the state government has failed to protect them.

The 25-member decision-making body of dera followers demanded that miscreants, who attacked the properties of the sect, be arrested. If the state administration failed to protect the followers of the dera, they would spill on to roads and the situation in the state might turn volatile, they warned.

The police maintained strict vigil at the dera and other religious places in the district to prevent any untoward incident.

The leaders of the SAD (Badal) and Shiv Sena also held a joint press conference and issued an appeal for peace in the district. Shops in the Arya Samaj area remained closed in the morning.

The shopkeepers were demanding compensation for the loss to their property in Wednesday’s violence. District officials said an inquiry has been instituted and the shopkeepers would be compensated after an assessment of damage to their property.

Other social organisations also issued an appeal for peace. Doctors at the Mata Kaushalya Government Hospital issued an appeal for peace to the people.

Members of the World Sikh Intellectual Council issued an appeal to dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to tender an unconditional apology to the Sikh Panth for maintaining peace.

The situation in the entire district remained tense, but peaceful.

Dera press secy’s remarks

Hoshiarpur: Activists of various Hindu organisations staged a protest march from Krishna Nagar to SDM Chowk to show their resentment against the alleged remarks of Aditya Insa, press secretary, Dera Sacha Sauda, against cows in his statement telecast on Zee News last evening.

They were also protesting against the dera chief for dressing up like Guru Gobind Singh.

The protest was led by Suresh Pandit, chief, local Bhadarkali Mandir, Varinder Kumar, city president, Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha, Nipun Sharma, secretary, Vishav Hindu Parishad, Adarsh Gupta, president, Lok Jan Shakti Party, Anil Hans, president, Balmik Sabha, and Jasbir Singh Walia, vice-president ,Sikh Welfare Society.

Later, the protesters set on fire the effigies of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and Aditya Insa at the SDM Chowk.

They also presented a memorandum, addressed to the Prime Minister through the deputy commissioner, Hoshiarpur, in which they demanded stern legal action against the dera chief and his press secretary.

Activists of the SAD (B) led by the national vice-president of the youth wing Parminder Singh Pannu at Town Hall, Hariana, near here, also staged a demonstration against the dera chief. A memorandum was presented to the naib tehsildar, Bhunga, in this regard.

More than 200 activists of the Gatka Party, led by their president Narinder Singh, also demonstrated and burnt the effigy of the dera chief at Tanda.

At Mahilpur, activists led by Surinder Singh Chinda, district president of SAD (B), also staged a demonstration.

District magistrate D.K. Tiwari said steps had been taken to protect public property.

Peace-amity march

Barnala: Activists of 23 voluntary as well as social organisations, including the Likhari Sabha, Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha, Malwa Sabhyacharak Sath, PWD Field and Workshop Workers Union, Medical Laboratory Technicians Association, Democratic Teachers Front, Adara Katha Kehndi Raat, Punjab School Lecturers Association, Punjab Bank Employees Federation, Malwa Gramin Bank Officers Association, Khetiwadi Te Kisan Vikas Front, PSEB Employees Federation, Veterinary Doctors And Pharmacists Union, CPI, CPI (ML) Liberation and Lok Sangram Manch, organised a silent peace-cum-amity march today evening passing through main markets and strategic points in Barnala.

The activists of these voluntary social organisations assembled at a chowk near the local S.D. College and started their silent peace-amity march.

The silent peace march in two lines of activists holding placards in their hands covered a distance of about 5 km while passing through the Kacha College Road, Sadar Bazar, Railway Station and Pacca College Road. The march terminated at a chowk near SD College here.

Pawan Parinda, a spokesman of the Sadbhavna Panel, Barnala, informed this reporter that the decision to organise this silent peace and amity march in Barnala was taken yesterday evening.

Meanwhile, armed with swords, sticks and other weapons, hundreds of Sikh youths held a protest march in the main bazaars here. The youths raised anti-government slogans for not registering any case against the dera head.

Gurinder Singh Sidhu, national vice-president of the youth wing of the SAD, along with Kulwant Singh Kanta, president, Truck Union, Barnala, has demanded that the dera head should tender an apology for hurting Sikh sentiments.

Shiv Sena for peace

Phillaur: President of the state unit of the Shiv Sena Ravinder Arora and its vice-president Pawan Parbhakar have described the Dera Sacha Sauda’s episode as unfortunate and urged all communities to maintain peace and harmony in the state and in Haryana.

Talking to journalists here today, they also instructed other Shiv Sena leaders not to issue any statements in this regard.

No extra force deployed: SDM

Malerkotla: The administration of Dhuri subdivision has not taken any extra steps for the security of the local dera of the Sacha Sauda sect situated at Malerkotla road near Bardwal village in Dhuri subdivision about 10 km from here.

This was stated by SDM Malerkotla Jaspal Singh Jassi, who has the additional charge of Dhuri subdivision.

He added that the administration was in contact with military forces in Nabha and the military would be called if the situation demanded.

No extra force was deployed by the administration in Malerkotla also although a march with persons brandishing swords was carried out by Sikh organisations there yesterday. Muslim leaders of Malerkotla also participated in the road march.

Shops closed in Ferozepore

Ferozepore: Panic struck this border town when hundreds of Sikh protestors wielding swords and firearms marched through various roads in the city forcing shops and business establishments to shut down.

The protesters gathered at the gurdwara near Makhu Gate and staged a protest march towards Shahid Udham Singh Chowk. They later tried to move to the Dera Sacha Sauda situated at the border road, but were stopped midway by the police.

Some Sikh leaders were seen arguing with police officials.

Prominent among those who lead the protest march included Bhai Jaspal Singh, Paramjit Singh Kalsi, Bohar Singh and Harpal Singh Bhullar.

Anticipating the move, SSP Dinesh Pratap Singh had already made elaborate security arrangements as policemen were deployed virtually at every nook and corner of the city.

As the news of the forcible closure of markets spread, panic-sticken parents rushed to schools to pick up their children.

Sikh demonstrators burnt the effigy of dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and raised slogans against the dera at the main roundabout of the city. Traffic was disrupted for some time.

Meanwhile, DC Bhagwant Singh issued instructions that schools, colleges and other educational institutions shall remain closed tomorrow. The DC also imposed Section 144 in various parts of the city.

Ashwani Mehta, president, Beopar Mandal, said traders had been advised to maintain peace and communal harmony in the area.

 

Emergency meeting today
Change in date: Sikh clergy under fire
Varinder Walia and Chander Parkash

Amritsar/Bathinda, May 18
The Sikh clergy is under fire following the change the date of ultimatum, served on Dera Sacha Sauda, the Centre, Punjab and Haryana governments, from May 27 to May 20. Due to pressure from the hardliners, Joginder Singh Vedanti, jathedar, Akal Takht, has convened a meeting of Sikh scholars here tomorrow.

It is for the first time that the date which was written in the directive, pronounced by jathedar, Akal Takht, was changed verbally after a few minutes. This was done in the wake of the defiant mood of the hardliners who were expecting immediate and stringent action against the dera.

According to the Sikh high priests, an edict pronounced by the takht could neither be withdrawn nor amended. As per Sikh ‘maryada’, anybody who changes the directive could be summoned at the Akal Takht.

The question is whether the Sikh clergy would seek clarification from Balwant Singh Nandgarh, jathedar, Damdama Sahib, who had preponed the ultimatum. When contacted, Jathedar Vedanti parried a direct question on the matter.

Had the Sikh clergy pronounced the same directive from Akal Takht in its first meeting held at Amritsar on May 15, hardliners, who had assembled at Damdama Sahib in a big way, would not have "hijacked" the situation.

The huge Sikh meeting, called by the Akal Takht at Takht Damdama Sahib has put the state government in a piquant situation since the Sikh clergy took a strong stand against the dera which would be practically difficult for the Badal government to implement.

It is reliably learnt that senior functionaries of SGPC and the state government have approached the Sikh high priests to help in diffusing the situation by not giving a "harsh" programme after the end of the ultimatum on May 20.

In case, there is a dilution in stand by the Akal Takht, it would give space to the hardliners and leaders of rival Akali factions. In such a situation, it would be difficult for the Sikh clergy to control the agitated Sikh youths who are expecting harsh sentence.

 

Dera chief can’t be summoned: Vedanti
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 18
Reiterating their call to the Sikh masses to boycott Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, jathedar, Akal Takht, said the dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh could not be summoned by the Sikh clergy because he neither believed in the basic tenants of Sikhism nor respected the 10 Gurus.

The Akal Takht could summon Sikhs who had faith in the Sikh ‘maryada’. The dera chief had emulated Guru Gobind Singh which no Sikh could tolerate.

With this categorical statement, the chances of any talks between the Sikh Panth and Sacha Sauda Dera had ended. The dera chief had offered to hold parleys for an amicable solution to the situation.

Earlier in 2001, Akal Takht had refused to summon controversial Baba Pyara Singh Bhaniara for atonement on the ground that he did not consider himself a Sikh. Though Baba Bhaniara had offered to clarify his position after his excommunication from the Sikh Panth, yet he was not given an opportunity to do so. However, the Akal Takht had summoned senior SGPC and Akali leaders for visiting the dera of Baba Bhaniara in violation of the Sikh ‘maryada’.

Similarly, Akal Takht did not summon another controversial godman Ashutosh Maharaj, who happens to be a non-Sikh.

Though the dera chief claims that his Sikh followers recite the Gurbani from Guru Granth Sahib in the dera itself, yet Akal Takht is not ready to accept it as a Sikh dera. The dera also keeps the holy Gita, Koran and Bible for its Hindu, Muslim and Christian followers.

 

Parliament gherao on cards?

Amritsar, May 18
Giani Iqbal Singh, jathedar, Patna Sahib, today gave a hint of giving a call to the Sikh sangat to gherao Parliament if the Centre fails to take appropriate action against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh by May 27.

However, he said that the Sikh clergy won't lead such dharnas since their high posts did not allow them to do so but they could definitely flag off such jathas to New Delhi.

The Sikh high priests said that the next course of action could be pronounced on May 21 after the end of the three-day ultimatum given to the Centre, Punjab and Haryana state governments. — TNS

 

Dera chief should apologise: Vedanti
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 18
Justifying the Sikh clergy’s decision on Dera Sacha Sauda taken at Takht Damdama Sahib yesterday, Jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti said today that the decision had been taken with foresight.

He demanded that the dera chief should tender a public apology for imitating Guru Gobind Singh and only after that there could be any negotiations with him.

Reacting to the mixed response to the decision, he said whatever might be the approach of hardliners, the Sikh clergy, known as “Sarbat Khalsa” had unanimously taken the decision after giving it due thought.

Talking to mediapersons, Vedanti said the deadline given to the state government to act against the dera was not long as the government had its own procedure to take action in such issues.

He said whatever had happened in the past few days was because of the controversy created by the dera chief. He said the situation would be reviewed in case the government fails to take action against the dera chief in the given time frame.

 

Damdami Taksal warns dera followers
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 18
Damdami Taksal (Jatha Bhindran Mehta) has warned Dera Sacha Sauda followers against carrying out their activities in the state. Talking to mediapersons, Bhai Lakha Singh said today that the Sikhs could not tolerate that somebody imitating the tenth guru by dressing up just like him. He demanded stern action against the deras chief Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

He said the decision taken by Sikh clergy at Takht Damdama Sahib was not in accordance with Sikh sentiments. He said the dera followers, who hold their programmes on every Sunday, would not be allowed to carry out their activities by Damdami Taksal in the state.

Meanwhile, contingents of Paramilitary forces, along with Punjab police personnel, took out a flag march through the city today.

 

HIGH COURT
Dera row: Notice to Punjab, Haryana, UT
Vishal Sharma

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 18
In the wake of Sikh-Dera Sacha Sauda flare-up, a petition was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court today following which notice was issued to the Centre, states of Punjab and Haryana as well as the Chandigarh Administration

The petitioner, Manjit Singh, a resident of Nayagaon, had sought directions to the respondents to improve the law and order situation in their respective territories and protect the life, liberty and properties of Dera Sacha Sauda followers.

It was averred that the Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa, and other smaller deras of the sect should be given adequate protection given the fact that various Sikh organisations were indulging in vandalism and hooliganism.

The petitioner alleged that the Punjab Government had totally failed to maintain law and order. In fact, the police was just a mute spectator to the acts of violence against the Dera and its followers.

The Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Mahesh Grover, on hearing the petitioner’s contentions sought replies from advocates-general of Punjab and Haryana as well as the UT administration’s counsel.

The court told Punjab’s advocate-general H.S. Mattewal that “We are disturbed over the turn of events and the state cannot remain a mute spectator to the mess around.”

At this, Mattewal submitted before the court that adequate steps were being taken by the police force and situation would be brought under control soon. A similar assertion was made by Haryana’s advocate-general Hawa Singh Hooda, who said paramilitary forces had been deployed in adequate numbers in Sirsa and every step was being taken to ensure that situation did not spiral out of control.

UT takes a different line

The stance of the UT administration’s counsel ruffled quite a few feathers. The counsel, Anupam Gupta, averred before the court that : “As a matter of Constitutional principle, I would urge the court not to intervene in this case.”

Even as the judges took exception to this, Gupta further asserted: “This raises questions of the court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy of judicial review. And I again request the court not to intervene.”

He emphasised that the high court could not trespass upon the Constitutional jurisdiction of the executive to maintain law and order.

The UT counsel submitted, much to the judges’ displeasure, that: “Serious questions regarding the bona fides of the court, its impartiality, its stature, its reputation and credibility might be raised.”

The court took umbrage at Gupta’s submission and observed: ”We will not tolerate anyone questioning the bona fides of the court which verges on the contempt of court. Before we take any further action against him, we direct him to file an affidavit, regarding his objection to the propriety of the court entertaining this petition, by May 25.”

When contacted, Gupta said he stood by his submission before the court and would definitely file his affidavit by May 25.

 

Request for Army withdrawn
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 18
District magistrate Rahul Bhandari today said the requisition of the Army to handle the situation at Salabatpura village of this district made by him last night had been withdrawn after he was informed that the Centre had allotted companies of paramilitary forces to Punjab on the request of the state government.

Bhandari, while talking to TNS, pointed out that though the Army was asked to send a particular number of columns to the village, they were asked not to move out from the Bathinda-based cantonment after he came to know that few companies of paramilitary forces would be descending in this district without delay.

He pointed out that he withdrew his requisition for the Army before the officials concerned executed the same. He added that the requisition was made around 10 pm and it was withdrawn around 11 pm.

The situation at Salabatpura village had become tense after activists of Sikh organisations attempted to storm the dera of the Sacha Sauda sect located here.

These activists were not satisfied with the edict issued by the Sikh clergy at Talwandi Sabo issued from Takht Damdama Sahib yesterday.

While many senior officers denied that the Army had been called in the village, Bhandari said he had indeed summoned the Army.

Bhandari said the requisition of the Army was withdrawn only when the Central government gave companies of paramilitary forces to Punjab.

 

Kanwaljit cremated under heavy security
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 18
Kanwaljit Singh (28), a local resident, who died in a firing near Naam Charcha Ghar of the Dera Sacha Sauda at Sunam yesterday night, was today cremated amid great tension and under heavy security in the presence of Jathedar of Takht Sri Damdama Sahib Balwant Singh Nandgarh, chief of Damdami Taksal Harnam Singh Dhuman, a former Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, SAD (A) vice-president Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu, Sikh saints and leaders at the local cremation ground.

Situation remained tense for about 15 minutes when a number of youths, carrying swords and lathis, stopped the vehicles, including the one carrying Kanwaljit Singh’s body, as they were insisting to take it to the cremation ground through the main bazars of the town, but the family and religious leaders had decided to carry the body through a shortest route (Baguana-Ubhawal-Sangrur road) to avoid any untoward incident.

On this, Jathedar Nandgarh announced, “Jo ohda sir liayu, sone chandi naal tol diange” (who will bring the head of Dera Sacha Sauda’s chief, he will be weighed against gold and silver). This paved the way for carrying Kanwaljit Singh’s body to the cremation ground through the shortest route (Baguana-Ubhawal-Sangrur).

In the wake of Kanwaljit Singh’s cremation, who got married about one and half years ago and had a six-month old daughter, all local shopkeepers had downed their shutters for the entire day. The BSF and the Punjab Police kept vigil on various spots in the town to prevent any untoward incident.

In Sunam, a mob reportedly ransacked two houses and two shops of dera followers. All markets in the town also remained closed for the day. The mob also took out a protest march through the town while a BSF company took out a flag march.

In Bhawanigarh, a protest march was also taken out by Sikh organisations against the dera head. In Dhuri, activists of Sikh organisations also burnt an effigy of the dera head.

 

Martyr’s family lose another kin in dera row
Mahesh Sharma

Jogi Majra (Ahmedgarh), May 18
A Sikh-turned Verma family of this nondescript village that was yet to receive ashes of one of their family member who attained martyrdom in the Indo-Pak war 35 years ago was shocked to learn today that the statewide violence having genesis in dera controversy had engulfed another member who was shot dead by an activist of the Dera Sacha Sauda at Sunam yesterday night.

Accusing successive governments of ignoring the sacrifice of the martyr, the family has now urged the SAD government and the SGPC to declare the deceased as a religious martyr and erect a memorial at his native village.

According to Didar Singh, his nephew Kulwant Singh, an electrician, now settled at Sangrur was killed without any provocation by the dera activist at Sunam yesterday. Having paid the price for the patriotism earlier the family has now been penalised for showing concern for dishonoring the tenth Sikh guru.

“Though we have never played an active role in the party politics, Kulwant Singh accompanied jathas to Damdami Taksal as his sentiments, like lakhs of other Sikhs were hurt with the sacrilege shown by the Dera Sacha Sauda chief a few days ago,” said Didar Singh adding that the family was contented that chiefs of all Takhats had declared him as a martyr.

According to him, his elder brother Harbans Singh was reportedly killed at the Chhamb Zuarian border during the 1971 Indo-Pak war but the successive governments had failed to compensate the family and get his ashes and other belongings from the enemy country,” rued Didar Singh adding that the family had to labour a lot to enable their Banarsi Dass receive the pension.

Kulwant Singh is survived by his wife Bhupinder Kaur and 6 month old daughter Manjot. His father Bant Ram (now Bant Singh) has retired from the Punjab Police.

 

Damage to dera: Case registered
Tribune News Service

Maur Mandi (Bathinda), May 18
A criminal case has been registered against about 300 to 400 unidentified members of various Sikh organisations in the local police station for their alleged involvement in causing damage to the Naam Charcha Ghar of Sacha Sauda sect located at Ram Nagar village, near here, last evening.

Police sources said the case was registered under Sections 452, 436, 324, 323, 148 and 149, IPC, on the basis of the daily dairy report (DDR) recorded by the police in the ‘rojnamcha’ of the police station.

Members of various Sikh organisations attacked Naam Charcha Ghar and injured seven followers of that sect.

These activists also set few vehicles parked inside on fire. Though the followers of the dera ran for safety, the Sikh activists chased them to the nearby fields to attack them with lathis and swords. A policemen, who was deployed on security duty there, also suffered serious injuries.

 
COMMUNITY

Women protest against water shortage
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, May 18
Hundreds of Muslim women staged a protest outside the local Municipal Council against the non-availability of drinking water in the city. Later, a memorandum was also submitted to local executive officer (EO) Ved Parkash Singla today.

Muslim women had approached the local administration and SDM Jaspal Singh Jassi for a solution earlier also, but to no avail.

They entered the council office and made a ‘siapa’ of the EO and the SDM.

They demanded the immediate suspension of the EO and the other staff responsible for the shortage. The SDM said he would take appropriate action to control the situation.

He directed the EO to deliver drinking water to the affected areas with the help of a water supply tank.

 
CRIME
 

2 held in double murder case
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, May 18
The police has arrested two persons in connection with the double murder case in which two women belonging to Ramewala Bhawra village in Mamdot were found dead and their bodies were recovered from an iron box. SSP Dinesh Pratap Singh said on March 14 the police got information that Ranjit Kaur and her neighbour Amarjit Kaur, were missing. The police later found their bodies from an iron box kept in Ranjit’s house.

The SSP said soon he constituted a team comprising SP (Detective) Jagdish Kahlon, DSP Rajinder Singh, DSP Bahadur Singh and sub-inspector Gurinderjit Singh who worked on various theories to solve the case. He said the team interrogated various people and then on suspicious grounds arrested Vir Pal and Rinku, who later during interrogation confessed to have murdered the two women.

The SSP said both accused had alleged illicit relations with the women and often visited their house. Vir Pal revealed that Amarjit had taken his pictures in a compromising position and was blackmailing him. She had asked for an amount of Rs 50,000 from him and threatened that in case he did not give her the money she would send those pictures to his family. On the intervening night of March 13-14, the two accused went to Amarjit’s house in the evening where Ranjit was also present and demanded the photos and their negatives, but Amarjit insisted on her demand, which led to an argument. In a fit of rage, the duo killed both women by strangulating them.

Later, they dumped both their bodies in an iron box kept in the house and escaped. The SSP said a case had been registered against the culprits.

 

Girl, paramour shot dead
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 18
In a bizarre incident today, Paramjit Kaur and her unidentified paramour were shot dead by Ram Singh, uncle of the girl, in his house located in the Dhobiana Basti area of this town. Police sources said Ram Singh, belonging to Kararwala village of this district, killed the boy and the girl with his licensed 12-bore double-barrel gun when he found both of them in a compromising position.

Paramjit who was living with her uncle Ram Singh, and her unidentified lover died on the spot. The accused fired three shots at the boy and one shot at the girl.

Interestingly, Ram Singh was distantly related to Baba Ram Rahim Gurmit Singh, head, Sirsa-based Sacha Sauda.

Harwinder Singh Virk, SHO, city police station said the murders committed by him were no way related to the ongoing controversy in Punjab. He said after the murder, Ram Singh surrendered before the police and confessed his crime.

Virk said a case in this connection had been registered on the complaint of Baljit Singh, an eyewitness.

 
EDUCATION
 

No date yet for Punjab pre-medical test
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 18
The wait for those preparing for the Punjab pre-medical entrance test seems almost endless. The Punjab government is yet to notify this year’s test date.

Also, no decision has been taken as to who will conduct the test.

The Punjab PMT test is normally notified by this time of the year following which the task of conducting the test is given to Baba Farid University of Medical Sciences (BFUMS), Faridkot.

Over 10,000 class 12 students appear in the Punjab PMT each year for admission to almost a thousand seats in the medical, dental, ayurvedic and homoeopathy colleges affiliated to Baba Farid Medical University.

In 2005 the test was conducted by the BFUMS. However, following the leakage of the question papers the test was re-conducted by Guru Nanak Dev University.

In 2006 Baba Farid University “outsourced” the conduct of the test to Panjab University. Hours before the test the question paper leaked. BFUMS replaced the question paper.

This year, however, the Minister for Medical Education and Research Tikshan Sood had planned to conduct the test online following the entrance test conducted by BITS, Pilani, and Manipal University.

However, it was felt that though the online test system is a simpler system of conducting such tests it would not be possible to generate the kind of infrastructure required for the test this year.

Online PMT, it was decided, would be conducted next year. “This year the test will be like other years,” said the Vice-Chancellor of BFUMS, Dr Ravinder Singh.

He added that the university had till now not received any information regarding the date of the test and the number of seats available.

It is learnt that the minister is out of station and no decision is expected till May 22 when he would be back.

 

Engg college gets Rs 16 lakh grant
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 18
The department of science and technology (DST), ministry of science and technology, Government of India, has granted Rs 16 lakh for a project to Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Engineering College (BBSBEC).

The project is entitled “Experimentation for Improvement in Surface Properties of Die and Tool Steels.” Dr T.P. Singh, principal of the college, will be the chief investigator of the project.

Dr Singh said this project would boost the ongoing research and development works in the college. He said another project sponsored by the Government of India was “Development of Erosion-Corrosion Resistant Thermal Spray Coatings for Power Plant Boilers.”

Dr Singh thanked SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar and the college management for providing incentives to the faculty for undertaking research. Dean academics Lakhwinder Singh, Dean student welfare H.S Bhatti and other professors congratulated Dr Singh on this achievement.

 


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