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Dera silence stalls peace bid
Agnivesh seeks help of PM, Sonia
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Situation ‘highly explosive’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 25
Cautioning the Centre against any laxity in defusing the Dera crisis, the all-religion delegation has described the situation in Punjab as “highly explosive” saying that any further delay may disturb the peace in the whole country in general and Punjab in particular.

A letter written by Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh, on behalf of the delegation, has not only traced the history of the present unsavoury controversy but also appreciated the flexible and conciliatory approach of the Sikh leadership on the issue.

On the other hand, the Dera chief has resorted to dilatory tactics and refused to send back the draft of apology, sent to him by the delegation, the letter further said.

Copies of the letter were delivered to the Prime Ministers’ Office, Home Ministry and the Congress president Sonia Gandhi by 6.30 this evening.

Swami Agnivesh explained that the all-religion delegation had visited the Dera Sacha Sauda and held a long meeting with the Dera chief to impress upon him the need for tendering an “unqualified apology” to defuse the crisis created by the Dera advertisements of May 13. In return the delegation had promised that once he tendered an apology, no action would be taken on the edict issued by Akal Takht against the Dera or its followers.

Swami Agnivesh said that now it was for the Centre to initiate action at its own level to prevent the situation from getting out of control. “Time is limited and immediate action is required,” he suggested in the letter.

He also reminded of the unsavoury past experiences when Punjab had undergone a tough time. “Any delay in intervention now should not be at the cost of the peace in the country in general and Punjab in particular,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janta Party, alliance partner of Akalis in Punjab, has reportedly asked its Haryana unit to play an active role in defusing the crisis. BJP president Rajnath Singh has directed the Haryana unit to take a delegation to the Dera Sacha Sauda chief to persuade him to tender an apology.

The all-religion delegation may also meet representatives of the media in the union capital tomorrow to explain what had taken place, in an attempt to work out a peaceful solution to the problem.

Chandigarh, May 25
Efforts for a peaceful settlement of the unsavoury dera controversy appear to have run into a stonewall with the dera leadership refusing to acknowledge any communication from the all-religion delegation led by Swami Agnivesh since last night.

Though the Supreme Court refused to intervene on two separate petitions moved by Dera Sacha Sauda against the edict of Akal Takht, Swami Agnivesh has reportedly written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister Shivraj Patil and chairperson of the UPA Sonia Gandhi seeking their immediate intervention to prevent any confrontation between “premis” — followers of the dera — and the Sikh community.

Swami Agnivesh has given the entire background and efforts made by the all-religion delegation to end the sensitive controversy through dialogue between leaders of the Sikh community and the Sirsa-based dera.

He feels that any delay in intervention may be detrimental to peace and communal harmony in the region.

With the deadline given by the Akal Takht edict drawing near and the dera refusing to communicate any further with the all-religion delegation, the worries of the union government as well as the state governments of both Punjab and Haryana are multiplying every minute.

Swami Agnivesh says the “problem needs to be tackled urgently and immediately” as the edict of Akal Takht calls for the vacation of all deras of Sacha Sauda in Punjab by May 27. He wants the union government and the UPA to use their good offices to prevail upon the dera chief to tender an “unqualified apology” to assuage the hurt feelings of the Sikh community over his alleged “imitation of the 10th Sikh Guru” besides the replication of certain historic and sacred ceremonies like baptism.

Only last night, the dera had made it clear that it had neither sent any draft or message to either the all-religion delegation or Swami Agnivesh conveying its intention to tender an “unqualified apology”.

Though Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and director-general of police N.P.S. Aulakh made categorical statements that life and property of all Punjabis would be secured and no one would be allowed to disturb peace in the state, the dera leadership continues to be apprehensive of the safety of its followers in Punjab.

The sudden halt in the peace efforts has come as a shock to both the Punjab government and the union government as both were hopeful that the all-religion delegation would work out a peaceful and acceptable solution to the controversy.

While the Punjab government and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal continue to hope that a peaceful solution would be worked out, the union government is expected to step up its own efforts to convince the dera leadership of the need for “defusing rather than aggravating the present crisis”. The worry of the union government as well as the Punjab government also stems from the fact that a failure of the peace process would allow fundamentalists and hardcore elements among Sikh organisations to wrest the initiative from the moderate religious leadership.

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Tarlochan Singh meets Hooda

Former chairman of the national minorities commission and member of the Rajya Sabha Tarlochan Singh today met Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda at his Rohtak residence to impress upon him the need for defusing the dera crisis. Tarlochan Singh wanted Hooda to use his good offices to persuade Dera Sacha Sauda to bring about an early end to the controversy which otherwise threatens to disrupt communal harmony and peace in the region. Tarlochan Singh, who has been playing an active role for an amicable settlement of the controversy, also had a series of meetings with Swami Agnivesh today.

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