How Dera Sacha Sauda crisis has hit Shiromani Akali Dal

Vipin Pubby
Vipin PubbyOct 16, 2015 | 16:49

How Dera Sacha Sauda crisis has hit Shiromani Akali Dal

The coalition government in Punjab, led by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), is hurtling from one crisis to another in the past few weeks and what must be more worrying for it is the fact that these are hurting its core constituencies.

Less than a month after the Sikh clergy, which is appointed by the SAD-controlled Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), granted pardon to head of Dera Sacha Sauda, it today suddenly withdrew its decision in the wake of mounting criticism from sections of Sikhs, particularly the hardliners and religious outfits. The SGPC had even issued an advertisement yesterday justifying its decision to grant pardon but held a meeting today in which it annuled the pardon and said that the dera chief was not a real saint and that his pardon was not acceptable to the "Sikh community by and large".

The advertisement was an unprecedented initiative by the SGPC to resolve the crisis. The advertisement had quoted the communication sent by the dera chief which said "leave alone imitating Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji maharaj, we can't even think of committing such an act".

The latest flare-up pertaining to the desecration of the Holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, at a village in Faridkot district, has unleashed anger and violence in several parts of the state. A bandh call given by various Sikh organisations on Thursday received sponteneous response from most parts of the state. Some of these organisations have declared continuation of protests till the culprits involved in the desecration were nabbed.

Well aware of the emotional and sensitive nature of the incident, the state government had been quick to order a judicial inquiry by a retired judge of the high court and has also announced an unprecedented reward of Rs 1 crore to anyone who gives clues to the arrest of the culprit who tore pages from a Holy book and spread these out in a village. An attempt to link the sacrilege with the Dera Sacha Sauda was quickly scotched by the Dera chief himself who tweeted that he and the dera strongly condemned the incident and that severe punishment should be given to the perpetrator of the crime.

There is no doubt that the desecration was motivated and a clear attempt to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in the state. It is obvious from the fact that the incident relating to tearing of some pages of Guru Granth Sahib was reported way back in June. Suddenly, the pages were found scattered at a nearby village a few weeks after the Dera Sacha Sauda chief was granted pardon by the Sikh clergy.

For the state government, with the BJP as the coalition partner, the latest incident is the third successive crisis within the last few weeks. After the controversy relating to the Dera chief had simmered down, the farmers, another core support group for the SAD, were up in arms. Their major grouse was that the cotton crop in the state was attacked by a pest called whitefly and almost completely damaged. Punjab has vast area under cotton and has the distinction of having the highest yield per acre of the crop in the country. The farmers in the state had switched over to the BT cotton seed which is resistant to most kind of pests. However, partly due to long spell of dry weather and partly due to the supply of sub standard pesticides, the cotton crop was destroyed. The farmer were demanding at least Rs 40,000 as compensation, but the government has so far agreed to give only Rs 8,000 per acre. While the farmers, who had launched a rail roko agitation which resulted in cancellation and diversion of about 800 trains over a period of a week, have suspended the rail roko agitation but have decided to gherao the offices and residences of ministers and MLAs.

The latest crisis involving desecration of the holy book may not be easy to handle for the state government. This morning there were reports of another similar desecration from another village. Meanwhile, overseas Sikhs, who take keen interest in the affairs of the state and particularly the religion, have announced a relief of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of the two farmers who were shot dead in police firing on agitators on Wednesday.

They have also launched a social media campaign and the state government shall have to remain on toes to tackle the situation in the coming days.

Last updated: October 23, 2015 | 18:45
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