Khalistan forces trying to stir sectarian violence

March 21st, 2008 - 11:11 am ICT by admin  

By Sahil Makkar
New Delhi, March 21 (IANS) Three prominent sect leaders in Punjab - Ashutosh Maharaj, Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh and Baba Piara Bhaniarewala - are on the hit list of Khalistan separatist forces that are trying to regroup with the help of overseas funds and the Pakistani intelligence agency, say Indian security officials. These Sikh militant forces include the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), and the Bhindranwale Tigers Force of Khalistan.

Wednesday’s arrest of two BKI associates in Jalandhar, Punjab, who were allegedly planning to kill Baba Piara Bhaniarewala only underlines the looming threat.

“Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and its terrorist cells are plotting to trigger sectarian violence in Punjab,” a senior intelligence official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

“They are not only providing shelter to them in our neighbouring country but Khalistan outfits like the BKI is training with Pakistan based terror-outfit like Laskher-e-Taiba (LeT).”

Sikh militancy raised its head in Punjab in the 1980s, but security forces comprehensively stamped it out by 1993, forcing many of its leaders to flee the country. Around 25,000 lives were lost in the battle against Sikh separatist terror.

But Khalistan militant groups are now conspiring to eliminate Ashutosh Maharaj of Divya Jyoti Jagaran Sansthan at Noormahal, Baba Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh of Dera Sacha Sauda and Baba Piara Bhaniarewala in Ropar and the heads of other religious sects in Punjab that have a large following.

The BKI has reportedly set up a common office with the LeT in Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.

“The BKI and other such outfits, which consistently receive a substantial amount of overseas funding and support for militant groups, from Khalistani operatives in Germany, US, Britain and Canada, have plotted to murder Ashutosh Maharaj, Baba Ram Rahim and Baba Piara Bhaniarewala to give momentum to their campaigns of a separate state by triggering sectarian violence,” the official added.

Following the intelligence inputs, the Indian high commission in Ottawa has raised concern with the government here over activities relating to Khalistan movement in Canada.

The officials said these extremists were trying to win the support of Punjab youths by targeting the three sect leaders, who have been accused of making people “deviate from Sikh religion”.

These sects largely sprang up in the aftermath of militancy, and their spiritual heads amassed enormous wealth when they got funds to rebuild gurdwaras.

According to an estimate, there are over 8,000 Deras in Punjab, each headed by a sant or chief. About one third of the state’s population patronises these Deras, which are believed to corner 90 percent of religious donations.

Radicals consider the Deras a major threat and challenge to the Sikh religious establishment. They have been organising campaigns against the Dera Sacha Sauda - a group regarded as ‘heretic’ by orthodox Sikhs.

Its head Baba Ram Rahim has been accused of blasphemy and hurting Sikh sentiments by dressing up as the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.

Baba Ram Rahim, who enjoys Z-plus security cover, also faces two cases of murder conspiracy and one of alleged rape, and is being tried in a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Ambala.

Similarly, followers of the Divya Jyoti Jagaran Sansthan at Noormahal have had several serious run-ins with Sikh groups that object to the ’samagams’ or meetings held by it all over Punjab, where besides projecting himself as a reincarnation of Sikh gurus, Ashutosh also allegedly criticises mainstream Sikhism.

In 1998, Baba Piara Bhaniarewala allegedly provoked Sikhs by writing his own Granth, which he called the “Bhavsagar Samundar Granth”, and encouraged followers to burn copies of Sikh scriptures.

On Dec 31 last year Delhi Police had arrested four BKI militants and foiled an attempt to kill Baba Piara Bhaniarewala at his sect in Punjab, while their two associates were arrested Wednesday in Jalandhar to execute the plans.

“BKI chief Wadhawa Singh and Jagtar Singh Tara - both based in Pakistan and protected by Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) - had hatched a conspiracy to eliminate religious leaders after collecting funds in Germany and the US,” Karnal Singh, Joint Commissioner of Police (Special Cell), said.

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