The residents of Bathinda heaved a sigh of relief on Tuesday as followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda agreed to lift a 36-hour dharna after a “compromise” with the district administration. Patiala Zone IG M.K. Tiwari and Dera manager Gurbaz Singh said an agreement had been affected with the administration and senior police officers, who insured that no insult or burning of effigy of the sect head would be allowed in Punjab.
Tiwari said action would be taken after the completion of inquiry. His remarks that a compromise with the sect followers had been affected before afternoon but was delayed due to violence triggered by mischievous activists, however, raised many eyebrows.
Earlier in the day, Dera Sacha Sauda followers fought pitched battles with the police and damaged property in several towns in Punjab and clashed with the Akalis in Rajasthan as they went on the rampage to protest an alleged insult to their head.
At least 50 people, including over 20 policemen, were injured in clashes in Bathinda and Sriganganagar in Rajasthan. Supporters of Sikh groups also burnt effigies of Dera chief Baba Gurmeet Singh Ram Raheem at several places in Punjab and in Jammu and demanded his arrest.
While reports of violence continued to pour in from different parts of Punjab, the two main political rivals here, the SAD-BJP and Congress, accused each other of engineering the violence.
Talking to mediapersons soon after meeting Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh Makkar blamed the Congress for instigating the violence. He said the Dera would have to apologise for insulting Guru Gobind Singh in an advertisement.
The clashes between the two groups started on Monday after 200 Sikhs took objection to pictures in which Gurmeet Singh was shown dressed up like Guru Gobind Singh at a public function in Bathinda.
It may be mentioned that the political wing of the Sirsa-based Dera had extended support to the Congress in the recently-held assembly elections. On Tuesday, Congress MLA and Leader of Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and PCC chief Shamsher Singh Dullo slammed the Badal government for failing to control law and order in the state. Bhattal said the party had called a legislature party meeting on May 18 to review the situation while stressing that the state government should call an all-party meeting to discuss the crisis.
Badal has appealed to the people to maintain peace, harmony and law and order. He termed the incident as “unfortunate” and asked the people not to get instigated.