The November 24 clash between a group of Sikhs and supporters of the Dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa has put a politico-religious rivalry in the limelight again. And this ongoing feud threatens to disrupt peace in Haryana and neighbouring Punjab. The genesis lay in the 2007 episode when the dera chief allegedly hurt religious sentiments by wearing attire akin to that worn by the tenth Sikh guru. As both sides blame the other for the violence and arson, HT posed some questions to the dera's chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, during the evening satsang at the dera headquarters in Sirsa
What is the solution to the ongoing feud between Sikhs and Dera Sacha Sauda followers?
We want to resolve this in a peaceful manner. In fact, we were ready to resolve it earlier too and do not have any dispute with the Sikhs. A lot of Sikhs are dera followers. However, there are some goons who, in the garb of religion, commit bad deeds and disturb peace.
Such incidents often create opportunities for radical elements to disturb peace. Do you agree?
Yes, there are such people… I would like to quote a couplet to answer this: Na Hindu bura hai, na hi Sikh Isaai Musalman bura hai; burai pe utar aaye woh insan bura hai (Hindu, Sikh, Christian or Muslim, none is actually bad; bad is the man who indulges in bad deeds).
Those who are looking to disturb peace, they get an opportunity… We had said earlier that we are ready to take an initiative and enter into a dialogue to settle issues. Actually, we took several initiatives, but apparently no solution could come out.
The feuds arose after the dera started dabbling in politics. Is it okay for a socio-religious sect to get directly or indirectly involved in politics?
I have nothing to do with politics. The sangat (followers) wanted to set up a political affairs wing. They were of the view that since they live in a society, they needed representatives who could help in getting their work done. There is nothing wrong with that; everyone has the right to vote. Casting ballot is an individual's prerogative. I fail to understand why some people think that by creating disturbance, they can mould people's views…
Politicians from various parties came to the dera during the Punjab assembly polls. We asked them to give an undertaking that they will make efforts to curb drug addiction, female foeticide; we asked them to give affidavits in this regard.
Do you feel a danger to yourself in these circumstances?
Hamara toh Satguru maula hai (God is our master). I have never felt any danger nor would, ever.
But it seems that the dera followers are becoming intolerant? The violence on November 24 is an indicator. Would you like to send a message to your followers?
We have always propagated love and peace. But I would like to ask you: if someone enters your house and attacks your family, would you turn a blind eye towards them? Our followers were meditating in the Naam Charcha Ghar in their hometown Sirsa. We were not interfering in anyone's affairs. But, are we prohibited from using the streets leading to our homes and our ashram?