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Sikhs protest sacrilege

Chandigarh: The Dal Khalsa International leader, Kanwarpal Singh Bittu has charged that the Punjab Government had not taken any action on the various incidents of sacrilege reported from various parts of the State. Bittu said it had been decided to organise a State-wide strike and also to ``seal off'' Chandigarh. The events of sacrilege were reminiscent of the incidents of 1978, when the Nirankari-Sikh clash led to sectarian tension, articulated in the years of terrorism. Agitated Sikh leaders, who took out a protest rally here , accused the Badal Government of soft-pedalling the issue for electoral considerations. The Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee chief, Mr. Jagdev Singh Talwandi, alleged that the culprit and self-styled godman, Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara, was being protected and patronised by ministers and leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal as well as senior bureaucrats. The former SGPC chief, Mr. G.S. Tohra, the radical leader, Mr. Simranjit Singh Mann, the former Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Bhai Ranjit Singh, and Mr. Bittu quoted the recent Supreme Court judgment and pointed out that Guru Granth Sahib was a ``juristic person''. Those burning it should be tried under Section 302 of the IPC and tried for murder. Mr. Mann disagreed with the ruling Akali faction's argument that the Baba was patronised by the Congress(I) and hence that party should be blamed. He charged that Baba Bhaniara had encroached on forest land and set up his headquarters in Ropar district. Mr. Mann said the State Government had done nothing to check his activities, which included inciting the Sikhs. He alleged that the RSS and the Sangh Parivar were also involved and that they were trying to disturb the community. In a statement, the State Congress(I) president, Capt. Amarinder Singh, underlined his party's ``secular character'' and stressed that it respected all religions and was the first to condemn the incidents of sacrilege. The ruling party leaders were issuing baseless allegations out of frustration as defeat stared them in the face in the coming Assembly polls. Over the last few weeks, the Sikhs, who accept the Guru Granth Sahib as the ``living guru'', have been in confrontation with Baba Bhaniara, who has proclaimed himself a living guru. He has authored his own scriptures, called the Bhavsagar Granth, and has managed a substantial following among the Dalits. He had earlier declared that he was not a Sikh and the Akal Takht had asked all Sikhs to sever ties with him. The present crisis began when the Guru Granth Sahib was set afire on September 17 at Rasoolpur village near Morinda, about 30 km from here. This came after the Bhavsagar Granth was burnt by activists of the ruling Akali faction. q

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