While Dera Sacha Sauda volunteers have fanned out across the city as part of their cleanliness drive Tuesday, the spiritual group’s head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and its members skipped Mulund and Bhandup, the suburban areas dominated by Sikhs and Punjabis.
Many say it could be because of a major clash in Mulund during the Guru’s last visit to the city in 2008, which had led to the death of a Sikh shopkeeper.
The shopkeeper, Balkar Singh (45), had died of bullet injuries and two others were injured when the Dera chief’s supporters allegedly opened fire on them after an altercation at the Nirmal Lifestyle mall on L B S Marg. “His (Ram Rahim Singh’s) volunteers were carrying arms. Some Sikhs had started protesting against him outside the mall. As soon as the Guru stepped out of the mall, his volunteers opened fire at the protesters and killed a shopkeeper. I am sure they wanted to avoid any such clashes with Sikhs again and decided to stay away from these areas,” said Ranjeet Singh, son of sitting MLA from Mulund, Sardar Tara Singh.
Sikhs from the areas were protesting against the Guru for his earlier appearances as Guru Gobind Singh.
“He had hurt the sentiments of Sikhs all over the country, leading to protests in the city. We consider him only as a sevak and not a Guru,” Ranjeet Singh added.
A senior civic official said the Guru had met the municipal commissioner to seek permission for cleaning only 22 wards in the city. “There are many Gurudwaras in Bhandup and Mulund and the volunteers wanted to avoid creating any sort of tension,” the official said.
However, Dera members said they had approached the locals in Bhandup and Mulund who wanted to take up the cleaning activity by themselves.
“We have always accepted people of all religions and sects. We do not believe in any kind of discrimination. We went as per the map provided by the civic body and started covering all the areas in the city. We spoke to locals from Bhandup and Mulund who wanted to take up the activity by themselves. Hence, we did not go to those areas,” said Dera spokesperson Pawan Insaan.
Around five lakh volunteers from the Haryana-based sect have launched their campaign “Ho Prithvi Saaf, Mitey Rog Abhishaap” (cleanse the planet earth to remove disease and curse) in Mumbai.