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Tension Prevails in Punjab as Dera Followers Arrive for Last Rites of 2015 Sacrilege Plotter, But Refuse to Cremate Body

Tension Prevails in Punjab as Dera Followers Arrive for Last Rites of 2015 Sacrilege Plotter, But Refuse to Cremate Body

Dera followers have demanded that all the sacrilege cases against Dera members be withdrawn and the 'real culprits' be put behind bars.

Chandigarh/Kotkapura: Uneasy calm prevailed in Kotkapura town of Faridkot district in Punjab on Monday where the mortal remains of Mahinder Pal Singh Bittu, the prime accused in the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case, have been kept inside a Naam Charcha Ghar (congregation centre).

Since morning, Dera followers, also known as Premis, continued to pour in huge numbers at Kotkapura to pay obeisance to Bittu, a Dera Sacha Sauda follower who was murdered in Nabha jail on Saturday evening.

Dera followers have refused to cremate the body till their demands are met with, even as talks are underway with the administration. They have demanded that all the sacrilege cases against Dera members be withdrawn and the 'real culprits' be put behind bars. Twenty-six Dera followers have been booked by police in connection with the sacrilege cases in the state.

Bittu's family alleged that there was a "larger conspiracy" behind the murder. His son Arminder Singh stated that Bittu was first lodged in the Faridkot jail when arrested in 2018. He was later shifted to Nabha jail but was then again moved to the Faridkot jail after the family members said it was too far to visit him every week.

The sacrilege case accused was then again brought back to Nabha in October last year. Amarinder Singh said they agreed to his being shifted back to Nabha since it was a "high-security prison".

The chief minister had met his father in jail on Saturday and said he "sounded normal".

Kotkapura continues to remain on the edge in apprehension of a confrontation between Dera followers and hard liners, who have hailed the act by Maninder Singh an undertrial in a murder case and Gursewak Singh a murder convict serving life imprisonment.

Leaders of the radical United Akali Dal (UAD) said Gursewak and Maninder had acted according to Sikh customs and "punished" Bittu for his "sins" and blamed the former SAD-BJP government for not identifying the culprits and the present Congress government for being unable to action against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in sacrilege cases.

Gursewak and Maninder were sent to four-day police remand by a Nabha court on Sunday.

In a bid to thwart any untoward incident, the administration is on its toes and security has been beefed up in Kotkapura. Huge police force along with two companies of para military forces — one BSF and other a Commando Battalion — have been deployed in and around Kotkapura. A flag march was also carried out in the town on Monday.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Kumar Saurabh Raj, accompanied by SSP Raj Bachan Singh Sandhu, held talks with Bittu's family and the Dera members to resolve the issue.

"The law and order situation is under control. We have deployed the desired number of forces. I am hopeful that the matter will be solved today," Raj told News18. "Cremation of the dead body is our top-most priority," he added.