Chandigarh: Punjab's social and religious fabric is undergoing a gradual change - and divisions too - with the increasing influence of controversial deras, or sects, headed by self-styled godmen who have capitalised on the tensions between orthodox Sikhs and others. The spotlight has swivelled to the deras once again with large parts of Punjab being held to ransom by followers of the Dera Sachh Khand protesting the attack on two of their leaders in Vienna.
Was it a fight between the Guru and the Granth?
The attack itself was the result of a simmering undercurrent between the dominant Jat Sikh community of Punjab and the largely Dalit Sikh followers of the sect. Much of the following that the sects are attracting is because people from lower casts and lower stratas of Punjab society are trying to seek a distinct identity for themselves.
There are other sects as well. The Nirankaris, whose ideological differences with the Sikh community led to 13 people being killed in a clash at Chowk Mehta in Amritsar in April 1978; the Namdhari sect that has followers in the state but has remained largely non-controversial; the biggest of them all, the Radha Soami sect, which is headquartered at Beas near Amritsar and has more than 100 million followers all over the country and the world.
Image: In this photo taken on Sunday, May 24, 2009, vehicles are burnt by protestors to protest against the attacks on Sikh religious leaders at a temple in Austria's capital in Jalandhar. (Photograph copyright AP. Unauthorised reproduction is prohibited.)
Images: Copyright PTI. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.