ibnlive » India

Jul 09, 2007 at 01:48pm IST

Sikhs protest Dera meeting, cops lathicharge

New Delhi: Punjab police resorted to lathicharge protesting Nihang Sikhs in Ferozepur on Sunday, in what could mark the return of violence to Punjab.

The Sikhs had first gathered to prevent a meeting of followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda and then threatened to destroy the meeting place.

But tension in the state is spreading to other areas as well.

In Bathinda, two Dera Sacha Sauda followers tried to set themselves on fire, demanding the withdrawal of all cases against Dera chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

Meanwhile in Amritsar, four Sikh high priests reiterated their resolve to oppose the Dera chief.

They asked Sikh followers to observe an earlier decree, pushing for Deras to be closed and Ram Rahim Singh to be arrested.

"We haven't asked him for an apology, and we aren't prepared to forgive him,” said Joginder Singh Vedanti from Jathedar Akal Takht.

The Akal Takht also asked Sikh followers to gather at Ratia in Haryana on July 11 to mount pressure on the Haryana government to arrest Ram Rahim Singh.

The Haryana government has withheld permission for the gathering, but the Sikh leaders say they don't need it.

"We don't need anyone's permission. Who can stop us from entering the gurudwara?" asked Vedanti.

Dera Sacha Sauda followers also plan to hold a meeting on the same day at Sirsa, just 14 kilometres away from Ratia.

Five companies of paramilitary forces are already in place in Sirsa and they might just all be needed on Wednesday.

(With inputs from Rupha Ramani)