Dera follower dies, alert in south Punjab again


Bathinda (Punjab) : An undercurrent of tension prevailed in south Punjab Saturday following the death of Dera Sacha Sauda sect follower Jaswinder Singh at a hospital in Rohtak in neighbouring Haryana earlier in the day.

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Jaswinder Singh succumbed to nearly 90 percent burn injuries he sustained after trying to set himself on fire outside the office of the deputy commissioner (DC) of Sirsa in Haryana, 100 km from here, July 2.

His body was brought to his native village Chak Attar Kalan, near here, for cremation.

Hundreds of dera followers converged on the village to attend the cremation. Police and paramilitary forces were placed on high alert to prevent any clash between dera followers and Sikh community members.

Jaswinder was one of the 25 dera followers who were sitting on a hunger strike outside the DC's office in Sirsa to protest against the criminal case against their sect leader – Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh – registered by the Punjab police here last month.

Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh earned the wrath of Sikh hardliners for portraying himself like the tenth Sikh guru Gobind Singh. This led to widespread violence in Punjab and Haryana with dera followers and Sikh community pitted against each other.

Two apologies sent by the sect chief were rejected by the Sikh clergy which sought his arrest.

Though a local court here issued arrest warrants against the sect chief last month, he was granted interim bail till Aug 6 by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Police officials here said that they were keeping a close watch on the situation to avoid any flare-up between the two sides.