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Dera relents; Punjab tense but calm

Dera head Gurmeet Singh issues a statement, reports Manish Tiwari. Read on...
By Manish Tiwari, Chandigarh
UPDATED ON MAY 19, 2007 09:31 PM IST

An uneasy calm prevailed in Punjab on Friday, with fewer incidents of clashes and violence. Late in the evening, Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, head of Dera Sacha Sauda, issued a statement saying he had not intended to show disrespect towards Guru Gobind Singh.

“‘I had no intention of imitating or being disrespectful to Guru Gobind Singh. I had absolutely no intention of equating myself with Guru Gobind Singh. This is a misunderstanding that is causing a lot of needless harm and it should be cleared,” he said. The Dera had earlier said it was taking back its demand for President’s rule in Punjab.

During the day, an all-party meeting convened by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal condemned the “provocative act” of the Baba, and appealed to all Punjabis to maintain peace and communal harmony. The unrest was triggered after the Baba was seen in pictures dressed like the Guru.

Protesters forced the closure of some shops in Ludhiana district. At Dhuri, Jalandhar and Ferozepur in Punjab and Asand in Karnal, Haryana, they burnt the Dera chief’s effigies. In Amritsar, Ludhiana and Ferozepur, some Sikh groups marched, brandishing swords and shouting slogans.

At the Dera’s headquarters in Sirsa, a tense calm ruled. At Salabatpur, 60 km from Bathinda, nearly 10,000 supporters of the sect protested against the government.relents

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