Followers of Dera Sacha Sauda did not cremate bodies of Satpal Kumar, 65, and his son Ramesh Kumar, 35, who were gunned down by unidentified assailants on Saturday, and continued to block the Malerkotla road at Jagera village, 40km from Ludhiana, on Monday. By the night, vowing not to end the protest until the arrest of the accused, they put up a tent in the middle of the road. Police, meanwhile, were deputed in large numbers as the village remained tense.
At the congregation centre where the murders took place, the bodies — preserved in a freezer — were guarded by the sect’s own security team, ‘Green Force’, and the police weren’t allowed in. Sensing huge crowds, the dera’s medical team was also deputed.
The dera force set up three-tier security, with all entrants being frisked at the main gate. ‘Premis’ (as the dera followers are called) said that police and the state government had sent personnel disguised as dera followers inside to keep a tab.
Earlier, after partaking of the ‘langar’ (community kitchen), around 2,000 dera followers came out of the congregation centre (‘naam charcha ghar’) around 2pm, and refused to abandon the protest. Family members of the victims were also among them.
In the morning, members of the dera’s state committee held a meeting with the Khanna senior superintendent of police (SSP), Satinder Singh, and other police officials. The SSP said several teams were trying to arrest the accused, two men who had come on a bike. “Such cases take some time,” he said.
The protesters raised slogans against the police and administration, and vowed revenge. Followers who have been leading the protest said in their speeches that they wanted the killers too lying in freezers as were the bodies of the victims.
Police diverted traffic to other roads to avoid jams.
TO VANDALISE OR NOT? FOLLOWERS DIFFER
A rift among the dera followers over the manner of protest came to the fore again on Monday. Some of the followers gathered took up sticks and threatened to vandalise vehicles. But another group advocated a peaceful protest.
A bus with 35 passengers got stuck, and those among the violent group broke one of its wipers. Upon intervention of the police, the bus was allowed to cross after an hour. The followers’ groups got into a heated argument over this.
On Sunday, too, one of the groups had blocked traffic on the Malerkotla road for 20 minutes, while the other was against such an action.