Thousands pour in for sect leader’s cremation in Punjab

June 4th, 2009 - 3:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Jalandhar, June 4 (IANS) Thousands of followers of slain Dera Sachh Khand sect leader, Sant Rama Nand Dass, trooped into Ballan village, 15 km from here, as his body was brought from Vienna amid extremely tight security.
The body was accompanied by the sect head, Sant Niranjan Dass, who was also injured in the attack on them in a gurdwara in Vienna May 24.

Thousands of Ravidassias, who are followers of 14th century preacher Sant Ravi Dass, started arriving at the sect headquarters at Ballan village since Wednesday, to pay their last respects to the sect leader.

Contingents of the paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) and Punjab Police were stationed in large numbers in and around the sect headquarters. The sect had appealed to its followers to maintain peace.

Areas of central Punjab, especially Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Phagwara, Ludhiana and a few other places had witnessed large-scale violence last week following the Vienna attack on the sect leaders.

Three people died and dozens were injured in the violence that also saw coaches of three trains being set on fire and many cars, trucks and buses being burnt by the protesters.

Public and private property suffered extensive damage during the violence as the civil authorities called in the army and paramilitary forces to control the situation. Train and road traffic was severely affected as the protesters blocked highways, roads and rail tracks.

Draped in saffron, the body of Sant Rama Nand Dass, 57, was kept in a glass coffin in an open area of the sect campus for followers to pay their respects.

The Punjab government had sent a chartered aircraft to Vienna from New Delhi Tuesday to bring back the sect head Niranjan Dass and the body of Sant Rama Nand Dass. Punjab chief minister’s principal secretary D.S. Guru went by the special flight to Vienna to bring them back.

The sect head and the body were flown by a special helicopter from New Delhi to the sect headquarters here Thursday morning.

The cremation is likely to be attended by leaders from all political parties. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and other central leaders are likely to attend the cremation later Thursday.

Most followers of the Dera Sachh Khand sect are Dalit Sikhs. There has been an undercurrent of resentment by the sect followers against the dominant Jat Sikh community in the past few decades, mainly owing to social disparity between the two.

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