THE PROTEST of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda followers intensified on Monday as premis refused the cremate the deceased, and started a sit-in protest on the Ludhiana-Malerkotla state highway.
Demanding identification and arrest of the suspects in the doube murder case, the followers of Dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh thronged Naam Charcha Ghar, the Dera’s congregation centre at Jaghera village of Payal subdivision in Ludhiana in large numbers and announced that they won’t allow cremation until police cracked the case.
Satpal Sharma (65) and his son Ramesh (35) from Mandi Ahmedgarh, who used to work as sewadaar at the Dera’s canteen, were shot dead by two masked men late on Saturday at the Dera branch in Jaghera.
WATCH VIDEO | Dera Double Murder: Day 3 Of Protest By Dera Sacha Sauda Followers On Ludhiana- Malerkotla State Highway
Their bodies continued to be kept for darshan at the Jaghera Dera branch as more and more followers on Monday came to take part in the protest and pay homage to the shaheed (martyrs). On Sunday, the protesters had blocked the highway for a few minutes only. On the dera premises, the bodies are being guarded by the dera’s own security team — men around freezers wearing the dera uniforms. The ‘premis’ said that as they suspect that the police and administration were ‘spying’ on them, they deployed their own force near bodies and at the entrance of the dera.
In an apparent show of strength, the Dera representatives also announced from the stage that they would not tolerate any further injustice against Dera Sacha Sauda followers according to the teachings of their Guru and even if it takes a week, they will continue to protest and won’t allow cremation.
Almost double the number of premis on Sunday thronged the Dera on Monday as langar service (food) continued unabated.
Mahinderpal Bittu, member of the Dera’s state-level political committee, said, “Look at the CCTV footage of the incident. The blood of our people is boiling with anger, but still, we have controlled them and told them to remain peaceful. The killers are flaunting weapons looking at camera and even firing in the air to celebrate. If police cannot even arrest such criminals, who are challenging them on face, then what are they expecting from us? Still we are giving them time and protesting peacefully. However, there will be no cremation till the culprits are identified and arrested.”
Meanwhile, the protesters started a sit-in dharna on the highway around 2.30 pm and tried stopping a bus of Punjab Roadways. They squatted in front of the bus and started shouting slogans, ‘Kaatilaan nu giraftaar karo’ and ‘Jab tak suraj chand rahega, Gurmeet Ram Rahim ka naam rahega’.
The police managed to convince some Dera leaders, who then announced from microphone that since women and children travelling in the bus were being harassed, they should be given the way. After moments of bickering within themselves, the police and some protesters escorted the bus out of the protest peacefully.
The Dera leaders also kept requesting protesters to keep the protest peaceful. However, some protesters, with covered faces, tried to create hooliganism and then the Dera leaders announced that each protester should either uncover his/her face or leave the protest venue.
The protesters, including hundreds of women, continued to sit on the highway.
“The protest will continue overnight and the highway will be not opened for traffic. The police are not giving us any clue or lead about what they are doing to identify the suspects. Even if it takes 10 days, we will continue sitting here and cremation won’t be done,” said Sarwan Kumar, member of the Dera’s political wing.
Meanwhile, talks between the administration and the Dera over compensation for the family of the deceased have failed.
Neither the family nor the Dera committee wants cremation and the matter will be over without any arrests. We are not ready to cremate after getting compensation. We want justice,” said Bittu.
Cops hunt for leads
The investigation seems to be leading nowhere and police sources confirmed that there has been no breakthrough yet. The police are clueless about the identity of the suspects, said the source.
“We have traced close to 10,000 phone numbers. But, apparently, the suspects had switched off their phones before the crime as phone details have revealed nothing. The places of some suspects in the villages near Payal were also raided but nothing has been found yet,” said the source.
On the other hand, Khanna SSP Satinder Singh said, “Police need time of at least a week more to probe efficiently.”
“Every probe takes time and we are seeking at least a week to ten days from the protesters to probe efficiently but they are not ready to cremate the bodies. We are assuring them that killers will be arrested and probe will continue swiftly after cremation but they are not budging,” said the SSP.
Asked if there are some leads in the case, he replied, “We cannot comment on details of the investigation yet.”