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Dera follower dies, alert in south Punjab again

An undercurrent of tension prevails in south Punjab following the death of Dera Sacha Sauda sect follower Jaswinder Singh.
IANS | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON JUL 08, 2007 05:09 AM IST

An undercurrent of tension prevailed in south Punjab Saturday following the death of Dera Sacha Sauda sect follower Jaswinder Singh at a hospital in Rohtak in neighbouring Haryana earlier in the day.

Jaswinder Singh succumbed to nearly 90 per cent burn injuries he sustained after trying to set himself on fire outside the office of the deputy commissioner (DC) of Sirsa in Haryana, 100 km from Bhatinda on July 2.

His body was brought to his native village Chak Attar Kalan, near Bhatinda, for cremation.

Hundreds of dera followers converged on the village to attend the cremation. Police and paramilitary forces were placed on high alert to prevent any clash between dera followers and Sikh community members.

Jaswinder was one of the 25 dera followers who were sitting on a hunger strike outside the DC's office in Sirsa to protest against the criminal case against their sect leader Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh registered by the Punjab police last month.

Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh earned the wrath of Sikh hardliners for portraying himself like the tenth Sikh guru Gobind Singh. This led to widespread violence in Punjab and Haryana with dera followers and Sikh community pitted against each other.

Two apologies sent by the sect chief were rejected by the Sikh clergy which sought his arrest.

Though a local court issued arrest warrants against the sect chief last month, he was granted interim bail till August 6 by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Police officials said that they were keeping a close watch on the situation to avoid any flare-up between the two sides.

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