M A I N   N E W S

Dera apologises, but to Guru
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Sirsa, May 27
Finally after 14 days, the conflict between Sikhs and dera followers seems to have ended, as the Dera Sacha Sauda apologised to the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh following the controversy over newspaper advertisements that showed the dera chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh attired like Guru Gobind Singh.

Tendering an apology through a press note issued at about 8 p.m. at the dera headquarters, the dera stated that there is no question of imitating Guru Gobind Singh, as we could not even think to do so.

“The dera had earlier too expressed regret over the whole issue. But in the large interest of the humanity, we apologise to great spiritual Guru Gobind Singh. We want peace and brotherhood to prevail in Punjab, Haryana and also in the country and abroad.”

In the 10-line one-page press release, the dera said that it was established in 1948 and respected all religions. We work to reform the people by preaching them to become vegetarian, to quit drugs, alcohol, and also teach the followers ways to overcome caste and religious barriers aa also to work for the humanity.

It was distributed to the media by a three-member team, headed by the dera chief spokesman Dr Aditya Arora.

However, the press note issued by the dera did not carry any signature or reference number. It was issued under the letterhead of the Dera Sacha Sauda. While distributing the press note, no cameraman of electronic or print medium was allowed. Besides, no member of the committee allowed any question.



Govts heave sigh of relief
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 27
After a fortnight of war of nerves between Jathedars of various Takhts of Sikhs and the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, peace, communal harmony and universal brotherhood got a fillip this evening when the dera tendered apology to the 10th Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh.

The apology, which the dera was initially reluctant to tender maintaining that it has never attempted or cannot even think of imitating great Sikh gurus, coincided with the deadline set by the Jathedars of five Takhts for today to seek closure of all branches of the dera in Punjab.

The entire nation watched with apt attention as which of two parties involved in this grave controversy would blink first. And the dera chose to do so in the interest of maintenance of peace and for communal harmony.

The apology had a substantial section of Sikh masses jubilant while the Jathedars of the Takhts and the Punjab Government were awaiting details of the statement issued by the Dera before reacting.

It, however, made the union government and the Punjab and Haryana governments heave a major sigh of relief as, sources said, it would go a long way in assuaging the hurt caused to the Sikh sangat by the dera actions.

“Apology is an apology and if tendered to the founder of the Khalsa panth, it becomes all the more significant and valuable,” commented a senior officials.

The apology, though strategically worded by avoiding reference to either the highest Sikh temporal seat of Akal Takht or the edict given by the jathedars of all five Takhts, came in the form of a Press statement issued by the dera late this evening.

The dera and its leadership has been under tremendous pressure not only from the union government besides the Punjab and Haryana governments to defuse the crisis generated by its May 13 advertisement in various newspapers which put the Punjab on boil with the Sikh organizations describing it outrageously blasphemous.

Subsequently, the Sarbat Khalsa convened at Talwandi Sabo asked Sikhs to socially boycott “premis”, the followers of the Dera, besides setting May 27 as the deadline for closure of all deras (branches) of Sacha Sauda in Punjab.

Besides the all-religion delegation headed by Swami Agnivesh of the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, behind the scene efforts were made by the Union Government and the Haryana Government to persuade the dera to tender unqualified apology and defuse the unsavoury controversy which otherwise threatened to blow into a major communal conflict.

At one stage, dera and its followers were adamant to tender any “unqualified apology” maintaining that they have already expressed “regrets” over the unsavoury controversy, but continuous pressure from all sides made them relent. At the end of its monthly congregation at the dera headquarters in Sirsa, it issued half-page apology written in Hindi.

The Punjab Government’s handling of the situation also came for praise not only from the Punjab and Haryana High Court but also from the centre as the “explosive situation” was aptly handled by maintaining law and order, maintaining throughout that no one would be allowed to disturb peace, communal harmony and order in the State.

Besides the all-religion delegation, other persons who played the role of peacemaker included Haryana Rajya Sabha member Tarlochan Singh and Congress MLA from Bathinda, Harminder Singh Jassi, a relation of Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.



A positive development, says Agnivesh

New Delhi, May 27
Religious leader Swami Agnivesh, who was mediating to resolve the stand-off between Sikhs and the Dera Sacha Sauda, tonight described the apology tendered by the sect chief as a “positive development”.

“We haven’t seen the written text. But we have been told that he has tendered an apology tonight. We think it is a positive development,” Agnivesh said.

He said after hearing the news he had spoken to Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti.

“When I spoke to him tonight, he told me that the five Sikh high priests are meeting on May 29 to discuss the issue and a final decision will be taken then,” he said.

Agnivesh said he had appealed to the Akal Takht Jathedar to consider the apology and help in bringing peace to the state. — PTI



Punjab calm, but on alert
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 27
Even as the deadline set by Akal Takht for the closure of all Dera Sacha Sauda centres expires peacefully today in Punjab and Haryana, the state will continue to be on high alert for a few more days. Parallel congregations, one of the dera at Sirsa and the other, bhog ceremony of Kanwaljit Singh at Sangrur passed off peacefully.

Calls for peace were made as Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti advised “restraint” today. Later in the evening, dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh tendered an apology that could end the crisis. Today even the hardline Damdami Taksal advised peace. The police said it would wait for the stand taken by Akal Takht and not withdraw the entire force immediately, rather taper-off the withdrawal over a few days.

The SAD thanked the people for maintaining peace in the state. The party said Punjabis had set an example before the whole world by maintaining peace and communal harmony in the face of grave provocation. It said this had also defeated the nefarious designs of anti-Panthic, anti-Punjabi, anti-people and anti-peace forces that were out to alienate Punjabis from the rest of the country.

A police spokesman said here that state police and paramilitary personnel were on high alert in Punjab, particularly in the Malwa belt which had a sizeable number of Sacha Sauda followers.

Paramilitary forces conducted flag marches in Amritsar, Sangrur, Bathinda, Moga, Manda, Muktsar and a few other places in the state.

The spokesman said the dera at Salabatapura, which was Sacha Sauda sect’s main centre in Punjab, had virtually been cordoned off with paramilitary personnel setting up barricades all around it. There were believed to be 2000-odd Sacha Sauda followers inside the dera.

Likewise, adequate security arrangements had also been made at all other deras in the state and its important functionaries had been provided security at their homes.

The security at important gurdwaras in the state, including Golden Temple, had been further strengthened. Meanwhile, the ‘antim ardas’ ceremony of Kanwaljit Singh concluded peacefully at Sangrur. Kanwaljit was killed on May 17 during a clash between Sikhs and Sacha Sauda supporters.



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