To instill confidence among people in the wake of the bandh, security forces flag marched yesterday at various places in the two States. Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Khalsa had on July 19 called for the shutdown, saying that only essential services including medical services will be allowed during the total shutdown sponsored by Sant Samaj, a conglomerate of various Sikh outfits.
Khalsa, who is a descendant of late militant Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale and convener of the Samaj, appealed to the Sikh community and members of various outfits to take part in the bandh.
The call came following the culmination of 11 days of peaceful protest demonstrations in Chandigarh against the Dera chief. Khalsa said the Samaj will meet in Ludhiana on July 30 to chalk out the future course of action.
Earlier on Tuesday, July 22, the action committees of more than three dozen Dera centres from various parts of the country assembled in Sirsa to chalk out the action plan. Dera Spokesperson Aditya Insan said the Dera followers were being deprived of their fundamental rights to pray and also of undertaking social reform activities. He said at more than 30 places, Deras had been forced to shut down and the Dera followers were not being allowed to hold prayers within their premises.
Followers of Dera Sacha Sauda in Fatehabad organised a demonstration against their alleged persecution at the hands of some Sikh organisations. They also voiced their protest against the authorities, accusing them of failing to safeguard their legitimate right to profess the religion of their choice.
The Dera followers submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner, addressed to President Pratibha Patil, saying that they were being attacked by some "anti-social elements" for performing "naam charcha", a religious ritual in practice since 1947.
The memorandum alleged that the authorities remained mute spectators even as Dera followers were being targeted every day.