Bathinda, May 17 (IANS) Violence again erupted in parts of Punjab Thursday evening as tens of thousands of Sikhs vented their ire against followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect for allegedly blaspheming their religion and set their properties and vehicles on fire.
Over 25,000 Sikhs had gathered outside Salabetpura, Punjab’s biggest Dera campus that is 30 km from here, and were set to attack it, reports reaching here said.
The mob was on its way back from the religious town of Talwandi Sabo where the top Sikh clergy met Thursday to decide the further course of action after Dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim raked up a controversy by dressing like the revered 10th and last Sikh guru Gobind Singh.
The Sikh groups were reported to be armed with swords, stones, bricks and other weapons. Over 3,000 sect followers were said to be inside the campus.
The first incident Thursday took place at a village near Maur Mandi town, 50 km from here, where one of the Dera properties was razed and vehicles were set on fire.
The vehicles included tractor trolleys, cars and jeeps – all belonging to Dear followers.
Police sources said that at least five Dera campuses had been attacked in Bathinda district.
The sect has a massive following in the cotton-growing Malwa belt of south Punjab.
Senior Punjab police officers Thursday evening asked followers of the sect to vacate their Dera campuses in the Malwa region, saying they feared that Sikhs could attack these places.
Eyewitnesses said police remained a mute spectator as Sikhs went on a rampage.
A sect spokesman said in Sirsa that the president’s rule should be imposed in Punjab as the Akali Dal government led by Parkash Singh Badal had deliberately let the situation to go out of control and the lives and properties of sect followers were in danger.