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Hectic bid for peace sauda
Mediators seek time till May 31
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 26
Conveying its dismay over Dera Sacha Sauda not sending by today evening an unqualified apology to assuage the hurt feelings of Sikh community, the Sarva Dharam Sansad has appealed to Akal Takht to give it time till May 31 to find a mutually acceptable solution.

Sarva Dharam Sansad delegation, comprising Swami Agnivesh, Maulana Jameel Ilyasi Ahmad, Muni Lokesh and Father Dominic Emmanuel, which had gone to Sirsa on May 22 to persuade Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to tender an apology to the Sikh community to assuage their hurt feelings over alleged "imitation" of the 10th Sikh Guru and "replication" of the sacred baptism,

remained hopeful of getting an unqualified apology from the sect.

Swami Agnivesh said they had returned draft of apology, sent to them by the Dera on May 24, suggesting some amendments. "It is unfortunate that we have not heard anything from the Dera chief or anyone else from the Dera about the draft sent to them," he said, adding, "We have not lost hope."

The Sarva Dharam Sansad members appealed to those taking part in tomorrow's bhog of the Sikh protester killed during violence, to maintain peace. The members have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, NDA chairman Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Home Minister Shivraj Patil, about the "seriousness of the situation and the "urgency of resolving it at the earliest" in view of the May 27 deadline given by Akal Takht for the closure of dears in Punjab. The religious leaders of the Sarva Dharam Sansad said there was fear of hardline elements taking advantage of the situation and enemical external forces trying to fish in the troubled waters. They appealed to people to write to the Dera chief as also to Akal Takht to not allow the situation to deteriorate.

Swami Agnivesh said they had hoped to find an early solution to the stand-off following their visit to the dera and were planning to appeal to the Akal Takht to take back its hukumnama after an unqualified apology was given.

Asked about reasons for delay from the dera, he said dera officials had told them that they had an elaborate process of consultation. Complimenting the Punjab government and Sikh organisations for keeping the May 22 bandh totally peaceful, he said they were not leaving any stone unturned in finding a mutually acceptable solution. "We appeal to Akal Takht to give us time till May 31. We will put in our best efforts to find a solution," he said. Swami Agnivesh said they had insisted on a simple, short, unqualified apology from the dera chief so that it would be acceptable to Akal Takht and would not be rejected like the regret expressed earlier.

Answering a query, Swami Agnivesh said they had an assurance from Akal Takht of a possible solution once an unqualified apology was tendered.

Swami Agnivesh said they were in touch with chief ministers of Haryana and Punjab who had assured them full cooperation.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Swami Agnivesh said while the attitude of Sikh leaders was flexible, that of the dera chief was "dilatory".

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Deadline on deras ends today
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 26
Security has been stepped up around all deras of Sacha Sauda in Punjab as the deadline given by Akal Takht for their closure ends tomorrow. Police patrolling has been intensified and all deras fortified. The Punjab government said that “law and order will be maintained and no one will be allowed to disrupt communal harmony, peace and order in the state.”

Tomorrow is also the bhog of Kanwaljit Singh, who was shot outside the Sunam dera on the day of the Sarbat Khalsa at Talwandi Sabo.

While review meetings were held by senior officials of both the Punjab and Haryana governments, serious efforts are still being made to bring about a last-minute settlement.

Harminder Singh Jassi, Congress MLA from Bathinda and relation of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief, has been playing the role of a peacemaker.

Sources reveal that Jassi was part of the group that prepared the apology draft in consultation with the all-religion delegation. It was this draft which was the last communication sent from the all-religion delegation to the dera, but was never returned.

Reports suggested that besides senior officials of the Haryana government holding a series of meetings with dera officials in Sirsa throughout the day today, some political parties also joined to help work out a solution.

At the instance of BJP chief Rajnath Singh, the Haryana unit of the party also sent a delegation to the dera to impress upon Baba Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh the need for avoiding confrontation by tendering an “unqualified apology”.

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