Hundreds of Sikh activists on Sunday clashed with the police following an attempt to storm a Dera Sacha Sauda branch situated on the Ferozepur-Hussainiwala road here, leaving more than 30 people, including some policemen, injured.
The activists, several armed with swords, reached the branch to prevent Dera followers from holding a ‘Namcharcha’ (prayer meeting), Additional Deputy Commissioner Rahul Tiwari and Sub-Divisional Magistrate DPS Kharbanda said.
The situation took a violent turn when the activists demanded the Ek Onkar (God is one) painted at the entrance of the Dera branch be erased as it was a Sikh symbol.
It forced the policemen to use water cannons and teargas to disperse the protesters and when that failed, baton-charged them.
The action left at least seven policemen injured. The ‘Namcharcha’ programme, however, has been cancelled following a request from the administration to the sect. A five-member delegation of Sikhs was also taken inside the Dera premises by SDM Kharbanda to convince them that “Namcharcha” was not being held.
Ferozepur SSP Dinesh Partap Singh said “mischievous elements” had deliberately attempted to instigate violence, but they would be arrested soon.
He said that criminal cases have been registered against 15 people including Harpal Singh Bhullar, president of the International Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar Society, under various IPC sections at the Ferozepur Sadar police station.
Meanwhile, Sham Sunder Bansal, a Dera follower set himself on fire in Bhathinda. He was allegedly forced to severe ties with Dera. Bansal suffered more than 60 per cent burn injuries and was transferred to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi for appropriate treatment.