Amid the "behind the scenes" war of succession involving two major factions of the Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS), the suspense over the "death" of sect head Ashutosh Maharaj continued for the fifth consecutive day on Sunday.
Even as the dera management stuck to its stand that Ashutosh was in "samadhi" since midnight on Tuesday, their failure to return two portable mortuary chambers has given the police and the media a big reason to conclude that the dera head's death is being concealed.
Sources in the dera said the tussle between Delhi and Punjab factions to control the politically and economically powerful Nurmahal dera had led to this confusing situation.
"Local leaders of the sect, who have worked closely with Ashutosh, want his close aide Amarindanand, who belongs to nearby Bilga village, as its next head. However, the group of his followers led by certain members of the governing body of the registered sansthan's Delhi branch are opposing it," said an insider. This group wants Malout-based Narenderanand or a sect leader from Delhi as the new dera head.
Amarindanand, who used to communicate on behalf of Ashutosh with political parties and the administration, has raised eyebrows by taking a back seat during the ongoing controversy. It is also learnt that a search has begun to locate Ashutosh's son, who was earlier staying in the dera.
Presently, the entire management of the dera, from handling the media to communication with other sectors, is being done by people who belong to Delhi.
Meanwhile, DJJS spokesman Swami Vishalananda and the media head from Delhi, Jaya Bharti, chose not to answer calls from the media for the second consecutive day.
Over not returning the mortuary chambers, dera member Swami Vishwadevananda said these had not been sent to the local Bhoothnath temple since the dera men were busy in other activities. "Our entire media team has gone to Delhi for some work," he said.
As per a senior district administration, the dera management has told Jalandhar (Rural) SSP Jaspreet Singh Sidhu that they would issue the next bulletin over Ashutosh's health on Tuesday. The SSP refused to comment on the issue.
Inquiries by HT revealed that the administration was probably preparing for a cremation, with foreign devotees starting to reach the dera here. Dera organisers have taken on rent many palatial houses for foreign devotees.
As a regular feature, satsang was performed on the dera premises on Sunday, but the number of followers attending the programme was unusually low.
However, preparations are in full swing to prepare a big pandal at the dera.