Tension prevails in Punjab for fifth day

Updated on May 19, 2007 12:26 AM IST
The situation looks grimmer with Sikhs and Dera men baying for each other's blood.
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IANS | By, Bathinda

Tension and confusion prevailed through most parts of Punjab and areas of neighbouring Haryana on Friday as the fight over faith between the Sikh community and followers of Dera Sacha Sauda sect entered the fifth day.

With one man, Kamaljit Singh, being killed in firing outside one of the sect campuses in Sunam town, 180 km from state capital Chandigarh, on Thursday night, the situation looked all the more volatile.

Kamaljit was one of the Sikhs coming back from the Sikh religious meeting at Takht Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo, 50 km from Bathinda, when the Sikh clergy called for complete social boycott of Dera Sacha Sauda followers and their godman Gurmit Ram Rahim and also sought his arrest by Sunday. The Sikh mob then attacked the sect campus.

As the police tried to stop the Sikhs from entering the sect campus, Kamaljit was hit by a bullet and died. At least 20 others were injured in the Sunam incident.

Tight security arrangements were being made in the cotton-rich Malwa belt in south Punjab as Kamaljit is to be cremated later on Friday and tempers are likely to run high.

Confusion reigned on both sides of the warring groups over their next course of action.

Security forces have been stationed outside all properties of the sect in Malwa belt where it has a huge following of lower strata people from all religions.

Elsewhere in Punjab, police had to fire in the air in Ludhiana rural district to prevent Sikhs and sect followers from clashing.

The Sikhs are protesting profaning their religion by the sect chief who attired himself like 10th Sikh guru Gobind Singh.

There have been widespread protests by Sikhs across Punjab and elsewhere in the country against the sect chief who has maintained that he has done nothing intentionally or any wrong to seek forgiveness.

Sikhs armed with traditional weapons, bricks and sticks had started dispersing from the sect's biggest campus in Punjab at Salabatpura, 30 km from Bathinda, after police was deployed in good numbers.

Tens of thousands of people from both sides were involved in a stand-off on Thursday night as Sikh activists wanted to raze the 150-acre sect campus at Salabatpura.

In Sirsa town in neighbouring Haryana, thousands of sect followers continued to assemble at the sect headquarters - waiting for their godman and the sect management to give them further orders.

The Centre has sent 42 companies of paramilitary forces for security deployment in Punjab and 10 companies in Haryana.

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