Controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmit Ram Rahim on Saturday night expressed his regrets to the Sikh community over the issue of his being attired in the manner of 10th Sikh guru Gobind Singh.
A sect press release, issued after a meeting of its management, expressed regrets at an unfortunate advertisement that had recently appeared in newspapers, showing the sect chief wearing a dress identical to that worn by the revered Sikh guru.
"We have respect for all Sikh gurus. We have never tried to copy any Sikh guru," the statement said.
The statement came just hours before the 72-hour ultimatum, set by the Sikh clergy to the Punjab government to arrest the sect godman for blaspheming the Sikh religion, ends Sunday noon.
The Sikh clergy is expected to decide the future course of action in Amritsar on Sunday.
There was widespread violence across Punjab and parts of neighbouring Haryana after Sikhs protested against the sect chief portraying himself like their guru.
The violence left one person dead and nearly 100 others injured.
On Saturday, Punjab returned to normalcy after five days of sectarian clashes even as the state police withdrew the security cover of the Dera chief at his headquarters in Haryana.
In a related development, the Punjab government transferred Bathinda district police chief Naresh Kumar and posted him in Chandigarh. Bathinda witnessed sectarian clashes on Monday and Tuesday between the Sikh community and Dera followers.
Kumar has been made in-charge of community policing. Naunihal Singh will be the new Bathinda senior superintendent of police (SSP).
"We have withdrawn the Punjab Police security provided to the dera chief. The security cover had been given to him by the previous Congress government," Director General of Police NPS Aulakh said in Sirsa.
The police security cover for the sect chief comprised four personal security officers, who all were asked on Saturday to report back to Punjab.
Earlier in the day, Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Khalsa said the deadline for the arrest of the chief of the heretical sect would be strictly adhered to and the Sikh community will then decide its further course of action.
The Taksal chief said that the sect godman should appear before the Akal Takht high priests and seek forgiveness for posing as the revered Sikh guru in a photograph. "This will satisfy the Sikhs," he had said before the sect's statement expressing regret.
The Damdami Taksal, a hardline Sikh group based at Chowk Mehta near Amritsar, also accused the sect chief of being responsible for the violence in Punjab this week.
The sect chief had on Friday released a CD saying he could never think of showing disrespect to the Sikh guru or try to dress like him. He said a misunderstanding had been created.
One person was killed and nearly 100 injured in sectarian violence across Punjab in the past five days, especially in the cotton-rich Malwa belt in south Punjab.
On Saturday, a strike call given by the Youth Akali Dal evoked a complete response in Jalandhar city, 150 km from Chandigarh, with all shops and business establishments remaining closed. Vehicular movement was minimal in the city.
Aulakh said that except for some confectionery establishments being set on fire in Barnala town, stopping of a train at Dhilwan near Ludhiana and rallies held in six towns, the situation in the state was peaceful.
He added that 42 companies of paramilitary forces, rushed to the state by the central government, conducted flag marches at various places.