Punjab religious row echoes in Kashmir

Updated on May 22, 2007 03:52 PM IST
Angry members of the Sikh community in Srinagar protest the actions of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief while Jammu observes a shutdown like in Punjab.
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IANS | By, Srinagar/jammu

Angry members of the Sikh community in Srinagar marched through areas of the city on Tuesday protesting the actions of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief that hurt religious sentiments of the community, while Jammu observed a shutdown like in Punjab.

Nearly 200 Sikhs gathered outside the gurdwara in Jawahar Nagar in Srinagar, carrying swords, demanding the arrest of sect chief Gurmit Ram Rahim.

The sect leader had last week attired himself like the 10th Sikh guru Gobind Singh, offending the sensibilities of Sikhs and resulting in large-scale violence in Punjab.

Protesters also burnt effigies of the Dera leader and shouted slogans against the sect. Similar protests were also staged in the north Kashmir town of Baramulla, which has a sizeable Sikh population.

The winter capital of Jammu, meanwhile, observed a one-day shutdown in response to a general strike called by the Akal Takht - the highest temporal authority of Sikhism.

Shops and business establishments in the city remained closed. Traffic was thin as Sikh youths roamed the streets brandishing swords and batons, shouting slogans and calling for stern action against the Dera chief.

"We want him arrested and all his units to be closed forthwith," said Balwinder Singh, a Sikh youth at Satwari area.

"This is our first step and if action is not taken against Sacha Sauda units and leaders, we might be forced to take stronger measures," he asserted.

All Sikh dominated areas, including Digiana, Nanak Nagar, Rehari, Resham Ghar Colony and Miran Sahib, wore a deserted look. Most Hindu traders also shut down their shops for the day.

Of Jammu's one million population, nearly 20 per cent comprises Sikhs.

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