It took only a few hours for fires to erupt across Punjab after the news from Vienna of “serious injuries” to Sant Niranjan Dass, head of Dera Guru Ravidass Sachkhand Balan, and the death of his deputy Sant Ramanand, both of whom were on a tour to Europe.
The rapidity with which protests spread is a pointer to the growing clout of deras that have mushroomed across the state and their potential to spark off conflict.
In fact, all major villages in Punjab today have two gurdwaras — one frequented by the so-called “upper castes” or Jat Sikhs, another by Dalits or “lower castes,” including members of SCs and OBCs. Ironically, Sikhism was founded five centuries ago to counter the caste system. Today, it’s members of under-privileged communities who constitute the growing ranks of deras, each one usually headed by a living guru — much against the tenets of Sikhism, writes Vipin Pubby in Indian Express.
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