Two people were killed and four others injured in a clash on Friday between two groups fighting for possession of a dera in Tapa village of Barnala district. The clash, which involved gunfire and stone-pelting, took place at the dera of Mahant Permanand, which has been existing in Tapa village for more than three decades. The dera, constructed over three acres, also has around 150 acres of farmland, which is its main source of income. Around two decades ago, Permanand had anointed his nephew Gopal Das as his successor, but the latter’s cousin Rameshar Das forcibly took possession of the dera around 15 years ago, after which Gopal moved court.
Sources said Gopal won a case in the High Court about two months ago, but still failed to get the possession, allegedly because of police inaction.
On Friday morning, Gopal’s brother Laxmi Narayan and his supporters allegedly reached the dera along with a trolley full of stones and bricks. As soon as they performed at the dera temple, firing started allegedly from the side of Rameshar Das. Gopal’s supporters responded by throwing stones. In the ensuing clash, Laxmi Narayan and Gulab Ram, one of his supporters, died after being hit by bullets. Four others were injured, among which one Ram Dayal, also a supporter of Gopal, is said to be critical.
The police have booked nine persons for murder and attempt to murder. Two of them, Harmeshwar Das and Bhawneshwar Das, supporters of Rameshar Das, have been held. Local SHO Sanjeev Singla has also been suspended for dereliction of duty.