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Friday, June 12, 2009

Controversial ‘Deras’ Add Fuel to Punjab Fire

CHANDIGARH - Punjab’s social and religious fabric is undergoing a gradual change, and divisions too, with the increasing influence of controversial deras or sects headed by ‘godmen’ who have capitalized on the tensions between orthodox Sikhs and others.

The spotlight has swivelled to the deras once again with large parts of Punjab being held to ransom by followers of the Dera Sachkhand protesting the attack on two of their leaders in Vienna recently.

The attack itself was the result of a simmering tension between the dominant Jat Sikh community of Punjab and the largely Dalit Sikh followers of the sect.

Much of the following that the sects are attracting is because people from lower casts and lower stratas of Punjab society are trying to seek a distinct identity for themselves.

There are other sects as well like the Nirankaris, whose ideological differences with the Sikhs led to 13 people being killed in a clash in Amritsar in April 1978.

Dera Sachkhand, set up over 70 years ago in Ballan village near Jalandhar by Sant Pipal Singh, follows the ideals of 14th century preacher Bhagat Ravidass.

The sect leaders have been placing the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, in their Gurdwaras and religious ceremonies, much to the annoyance of the Sikh clergy and community. The Sikhs object to their holy book being placed equally with leaders of this sect.

Dera Sacha Sauda, headquartered in a sprawling campus on the outskirts of Sirsa town in adjoining Haryana, 200 miles from Chandigarh, has been the most controversial among all the sects in recent years. It has a following of 20 million people in various states and over three million in Punjab.

Most of the followers are people from lower castes.

Its head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh faces cases of murder and the rape of a ‘sadhvi’ (female disciple) and has been involved in a major controversy with the Sikh community for attiring himself on the lines of 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.

His action led to large-scale violence in Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and other places.

The Divya Jyoti Jagran Sansthan led by Ashutosh Maharaj, has also been involved in several controversies, especially with the Sikh community, on matters of ideology.

Baba Bhaniarewala sect is headed by a self-proclaimed ‘baba’, Piara Singh Bhaniarewala, and based in Ropar district.

His followers are also mostly from Dalit Sikh community. He has also been involved in various controversies with the Sikh community as he compares himself to the Sikh Gurus.

He and his followers have been accused of burning the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, in recent years. (PTI)

with thanks : source : http://www.indiajournal.com/pages/event.php?id=7249

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