Dera followers killing compared to Jallianwala massacre

 Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. File photo

As the infamous Dera Sacha Sauda flexes its muscles to announce its ‘vital patronage’ to a political party in the ensuing elections, politicians appear willing to go to any extent to charm the beleaguered Sect. 

The rhetoric is turning unthinkable with some leaders likening the killing of several dozens of sect goons in police firing, post the conviction of sect chief on charges of rape in 2017 to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on Baisakhi Day in 1919. 
 
State president of Chautala-led Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) Ashok Arora made an unprecedented statement a couple of days ago maintaining that the killing of 40 Dera Sacha Sauda followers in police firing during the Panchkula violence was ‘the first incident after Jallianwala Bagh massacre when such number of people were killed within a period of one hour.’
 
After the conviction of the now jailed Sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in 2017, leaders across party lines had slipped into hibernation avoiding any commentary on the Dera that could invite a controversy. However, with elections underway, they seem to have overcome this inhibition. “We have no hesitation in going to Dera to seek their support,” Arora said. 
 
Although its support base has ebbed with its chief serving a life term behind bars, the Dera could still play a determining role in the voting pattern in favour or against a party or a candidate. 
 
Politicians are reacting differently in Punjab and Haryana. While majority of the political parties have said no to seeking sect votes in Punjab, state of Haryana presents a picture in contrast. In Sikh dominated Punjab, politicians are cautious of the diktat by the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhism, that forbids Sikhs from seeking Dera support. 
 
Sikhs and the Sect have been at loggerhead, much of which was triggered after Gurmeet Ram Rahim was accused of blasphemy for imitating the Sikh Guru. The flip-flop over the pardon granted to the sect chief, purportedly at the behest of the Akali Dal, also snowballed into a major controversy that cost the Akali Dal dear. 
 
Haryana remains largely aloof from all the complexities surrounding the Dera in its neighbouring state. Politicians in Jatland know well that Dera followers vote en bloc, something which could offer a political advantage to them. Chief Minister Khattar to state Congress chief Ashok Tanwar all have minced no words in seeking Dera support.

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