Self-styled godman Baba Bhaniara, who was excommunicated by Akal Takht, dies
Rupnagar Controversial self-styled godman Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara, spiritual leader of a breakaway Sikh sect based in Dhamiana village in Ropar, Punjab, died early on Monday morning while being taken to hospital after complaining of chest pain. He was 61.
Sources said Bhaniara was taken to Max Hospital in Mohali after complaining of chest pain, where doctors said he had died.
Survived by his wife and three sons, Bhaniara, once a horticulture department employee at a sericulture farm in Asmanpur village, proclaimed himself a ‘baba’ (spiritually advanced person) after taking over two mazaars following the death of his father, the caretaker of the shrines.
His fame as a healer spread wide after political leaders, government and judicial officers started visiting the dera (settlement) he had built on encroached land at Dhamiana, which later attracted thousands of followers, most of them dalits. Soon, the man who was recognised for his social work and rumoured to feed wild animals and birds in forests, had built a number of deras across the state.
In 1998, the Akal Takht excommunicated him from the Sikh Panth for working against Sikh tenets.
In 2001, Bhaniara published his own Bhavsagar Granth, alleged to be an ‘insult’ to the Sikh holy scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib. This sparked violence against his followers who were accused of burning copies of the scriptures.
The Punjab government then banned the Bhavsagar Granth and arrested Bhaniara under the National Security Act. A number of criminal cases were slapped against him and many of his followers jailed.
He was also forced to confine his activities to his house in Dhamiana after the government repossessed the land he had encroached upon for his dera.
Under constant threat because of the controversies, Bhaniara was injured in a knife attack on September 24, 2003 by a Sikh youth when he was in Ambala to appear in court for a case related to the burning of the Guru Granth Sahib copies. Another assassination attempt failed when he escaped a bomb explosion allegedly by Babbar Khalsa militants near his house in Dhamiana on January 9, 2005. He also sustained minor injuries in an October 27, 2011,attack by three persons with a sharp-edged weapon at home.