Another Dera follower attempts self-immolation


Bathinda (Punjab) : One more follower of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect Sunday evening set himself on fire in this south Punjab town to protest the "victimization" of sect followers and a police case filed against Dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.

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The man, Sham Sunder, was rushed to the civil hospital here with nearly 70 percent burn injuries. Doctors said that his condition was serious.

His family members said that Sham Sunder was under pressure from the Sikh community to leave the sect.

The dera chief is accused of hurting the feelings of the Sikh community by portraying himself like 10th Sikh guru Gobind Singh recently.

Sham Sunder is the second dera follower to commit self-immolation. Last week, Jaswinder Singh, a resident of Chak Attar Singh Wala village near here, had set himself on fire during a protest at Sirsa town in neighbouring Haryana, 100 km from here.

The dera headquarters are located near Sirsa.

Jaswinder, who had suffered 90 percent burns, died early Saturday and was cremated at his village the same evening.

There was tension around the village and in Bathinda district, where scores of sect followers live, following Jaswinder's death.

The Punjab police Sunday also arrested 17 Nihang ('warrior') Sikhs when scores of them from the community surrounded a campus where Sacha Sauda followers were to gather for their weekly prayer meeting near Ferozpore town.

Over 300 Nihangs had gathered near the sect campus saying that they will not allow the prayer meeting. While police was able to persuade dera followers not to assemble there in view of the tension, the protesting Nihangs, some of them armed with traditional weapons, tried to go near the premises and threatened to pull down the structure there.

Police resorted to a cane charge in which nearly a dozen people were injured. Police dispersed the Nihang Sikhs and arrested 17 of them.