Badal seeks dera chief’s apology, supports strike call


Chandigarh : Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal Monday categorically told the Dera Sacha Sauda chief to apologise to the Sikh community for his actions to defuse the tension between the Sikh community and the sect.

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"No one is big or small. He should realise his mistake and apologise to the Sikh community. This will help defuse the tense situation," Badal told reporters here.

The chief minister also stated that since a case had been registered against dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim for hurting religious sentiments of the Sikh community, his arrest would be a natural step.

Earlier in the day, the dera had maintained that its chief had committed no mistake so there was no question of any apology.

"We have already regretted the entire episode that might have hurt feelings of the Sikh community," dera spokesman Aditya Insaan said in Sirsa, 300 km from here.

The Sikh community is protesting against the dera chief for portraying himself like 10th Sikh guru Gobind Singh.

The protests led to large-scale violence in Punjab for five days last week.

The dera spokesman reminded Badal of his "raj dharm", or ruler's duty.

Badal was quick to react saying that he knew his politics and it was for the sect to follow the "dera dharm" (sect principles).

The chief minister said that his government was fully geared for the Punjab shutdown Tuesday following a call given by the Akal Takht to demand action against the dera chief.

Clearly siding with the protest call, the chief minister, who is also the president of the ruling Akali Dal that is supporting the call, said that he had appealed to all to keep the strike peaceful.

"Anyone going against the law will be firmly dealt with. Maintaining law and order is our responsibility. Carrying weapons other than kirpans and firearms will not be permitted during the bandh," Badal said.

Asked what measures will be taken if anyone tried to get the dera campuses closed forcibly, Badal said that his government will deal with the situation when it happens.

"Our government is determined to maintain law and order in the state," the chief minister said.