A SIKH organisation called Ek Noor Khalsa Fauj, which has been named in last week’s clashes against Dera Sacha Sauda followers in Ferozepur, has been involved in previous incidents involving the controversial dera.
In the February 19 and 25 clashes, in Ferozepur’s Zira constituency, complainants alleged the involvement of the outfit headed by Balwant Singh Nandgarh, former Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib.
SSP Ferozepur Gaurav Garg said the police was investigating the alleged involvement of the group. “We are investigating the case and preliminary investigation says that members of Ek Noor Khalsa Fauj had entered into a clash with Dera followers. Our teams are raiding at different places to find the persons involved in this clash,” he said.
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Baba Dilbagh Singh- Sikh preacher of Ek Noor Khalsa Fauj has been booked in both Zira and Mallanwala clash but he is absconding and yet to be arrested, the SSP said.
Balkar Singh Insaan, block President of Dera Sacha Sauda, Ferozepur said members of Ek Noor Khalsa Fauj had disrupted their satsang, but the programme would continue as per schedule.
“We have given the schedule to district police about the same. Everyone in this country has the freedom to do prayers in a way one wants and they should not be stopped. “ The SGPC had removed Nandgarh as Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib on January 17, 2015, on the charges that he had violated Sikh Rehat Maryada (religious code of conduct) and disobeyed its decisions. Nandgarh backs the Nankshahi calendar and had refused to accept SGPC’s approved Bikrami Calendar.
Nandgarh did not deny the involvement of Ek Noor Khalsa Fauj in the Ferozepur clashes, but asserted it was not his group alone.
“There were members from several other panthic organisations as well who believe in the Guru Granth Sahib and hence they were against organising these programs in Mohallas, colonies and villages. One needs to take permission from the village panchayat rather than informing just the police before conducting such events. Only in that way can the dera guage if the public wants such programmes or not,” said Nandgarh.
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Nandgarh said his group was a panthic organisation formed in 2004. He said it had members across Punjab, who had participated in the protests against the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in October 2015.
Asked about the protests against the Dera programme, he said,”They organised anti-Sikh programmes in name of Nam Charcha. Their so called Guru is an actor and not a religious person. If anything against Sikh religion will be spoken on loudspeakers, we will not tolerate. Hence, it is high time that such programmes should be stopped.”
Since the clashes in Ferozepur, the dera satsangs, known as Nam Charcha, are being conducted under police supervision. The satsangs had been banned in Punjab in 2009. But they began once again after the polls during which Dera Sacha Sauda had extended its backing to the ruling SAD-BJP alliance, which in turn is said to have promised that the Dera would be allowed to preach again in the state. Nandgarh alleged that the SAD wanted to leave behind a legacy of tension in Punjab as it knew that it was not coming back to power. Nandgarh however condemned the double murder of dera followers in Jagera village of Ludhiana district. “Police should arrest the culprits soon,” he said.
Supporting Nandgarh, Baljeet Singh Dadulwal, Chairman of Panthic Sewa Lehar and the 2015 Sarbat Khalsa appointed parallel jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib said,” we are against Dera Sacha Sauda since the beginning. Our ideology does not match with them and hence it is not a good sign that Nam Charcha programs are being organised in mohallas, colonies etc unlike at a common place of the dera. This happened after SAD sought support from Dera and now tension can be seen between Dera followers and Sikhs. However Sikh Organisations should lodge their protest in a non-violent way.”
Dera Sacha Sauda’s Nam Charcha Satsangs were being organised in Punjab till Mid 2009 and later they were stopped after violence broke out between Dera followers and Sikhs. Even at that time Ek Noor Khalsa Fauj members had entered into clashes in Mansa, Ludhiana, Bathinda etc places with Dera followers. Clashes had started after Dera Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim had sparked a controversy by wearing an attire allegedly similar to that of Guru Gobind Singh in May, 2017 in a religious congregation in a Bathinda village. Following which Akal Takht had asked Sikhs to boycott Dera head. After that his religious congregations had been stopped in Punjab and were being organised only inside Nam Charcha Houses.