Highway blocked in Haryana, protests in Punjab after Mumbai clashes (Lead)

June 21st, 2008 - 9:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, June 21 (IANS) Members of the Sikh community Saturday blocked traffic on National Highway No.10 near Sirsa town in Haryana to protest the killing of a Sikh in Mumbai in firing by armed security men of Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh. The protest by the Sikhs was organized in Sirsa, about 300 km from here, which is close to the headquarters of the Dera sect.

Police reinforcements were rushed to the spot to prevent any clash between the Sikh community and the sect’s followers.

Sources in the Haryana police told IANS that the Dera chief, who is presently in Maharashtra, has been asked not to come back to his sect headquarters near Sirsa till the current crisis is over. He is likely to go to Uttar Pradesh or Uttarakhand.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal called up his Maharashtra counterpart Vilasrao Deshmukh Friday night to demand action against those who killed the Sikh youth in Mumbai.

Protests were also held by Sikh organizations in various cities across Punjab. These included Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Mohali, Patiala and Bathinda.

The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) appealed to the Sikh community to show restraint even as it demanded action against the sect chief for instigating Sikhs, its spokesman said in Amritsar.

The Sikh protesters demanded the arrest of the sect chief.

A Sikh activist was killed when security guards accompanying the controversial Dera chief opened fire on Sikh protesters at a shopping mall in Mulund area of Mumbai Friday. The sect chief had gone shopping.

The firing took place when Sikhs protested against the Dera chief’s presence and threw stones at him. His security guards fired on the protesters.

The sect chief enjoys Z-plus security cover, mostly from the Haryana police.

He has been in the middle of controversies since May last year when he dressed himself as 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh during his sect’s religious ceremony. This led to protests from Sikhs and large scale violence by the community against the sect, particularly in Punjab and Haryana.

Punjab remained on the boil for over two weeks last year as the anti-sect protests intensified.

The controversial Dera chief is also facing two cases of conspiracy to murder and one case of rape in a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Ambala. He has millions of followers in north India and other parts of the country.

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