Dera Sacha Sauda and the Sikhs of Punjab

A major conflict has broken out in Punjab, between the orthodox Sikh community and a sect (which may or may not be understood as a ‘Sikh’ sect) called Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS). It’s a strange and complex issue, involving caste issues (DSS members are predominantly from what are called ‘backward’ castes), politics (DSS supporters are overwhelmingly Congress party supporters, while Punjab has for many years been dominated by the BJP-allied Akali Dal), as well fundamental questions of who gets to determine how a religion is defined.

The BBC has the basic details here:

Cities and towns across the northern Indian state of Punjab are shut in response to a general strike called by the Sikh community.

Security forces have been deployed and businesses and schools are closed for the day amid fears of violence.

Sikhs are demanding an apology from the leader of a religious sect who appeared in an advert dressed like one of the Sikh religion’s most important figures.

Sikh community leaders say it is an insult to their religion. (link)

The DSS leader’s name is Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, and there was controversy surrounding his leadership of the DSS before the current conflagration began. The DSS has grown quite rapidly in recent years, but its leadership is also being investigated by the CBI on charges of sexual molestation, according to the Times of India:

The era also saw the sect embroiled in a number of contentious issues, especially those involving the dera chief. In 2003, an anonymous letter alleged sexual exploitation of young girls at the dera. Later, murder of a senior member of the dera and a Sirsa-based journalist set the rumour mills working overtime. Family members of the slain scribe moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court, demanding a CBI probe into the role of dera in the murder. The case was handed over to the CBI. However, the CBI probe moved at a slow pace despite the HC pulling up the investigating agency. Also, political pressure and protests by dera followers did not help.

More recently, the dera courted trouble just before the Punjab assembly elections this year. Though it enjoyed the patronage of both the Akali and Congress leaders, the president issued an edict asking his followers to support Congress candidates. According to sources, this favour was extended after the party (Punjab Congress) promised relief in the CBI case. Post elections, there have been complaints of Akalis harassing dera men. (link)

That last point in the TOI above suggests how much might be at stake in this conflict; it also shows how intimately religion and politics are intertwined in India. This is at once a religious and a political conflict, and suggestions that the state remain neutral on a matter of religious doctrine, while correct in principle, do not really seem to apply. (It’s yet another reminder of how difficult it can be to comprehend India’s “secularism”)

As a final comment, I should note that while I myself don’t have very much first-hand knowledge of the various Dera sects (there are dozens) that are currently active all over Punjab and its neighboring states, a blogger named SidhuSaaheb (via Neha Vishwanathan at Global Voices Online) does have a fair bit to say about the DSS:

As I keep track of the coverage, in newspapers and on television, of the Dera Sacha Sauda controversy, there are a few things that strike me as strange.

Firstly, the Dera has been described as a ‘Sikh sect’ in certain sections of the news media, whereas it has nothing to do with Sikhism (or any other religious faith, as for that matter).

Secondly, something that has been part of conversations in urban drawing-rooms and rural baithhaks in Punjab i.e. the Dera head issued an edict to his followers to vote for Congress (I) in the recent state assembly elections, only because that party offered to help ‘dispose off’ the criminal cases filed against the Baba and his followers (the charges include murder and sexual abuse), in case it was able to form the government, does not appear to have been mentioned in any newspaper or on any television channel.

Thirdly, most media reports seem to imply that the Sikhs have been outraged merely by the fact that the Baba appeared dressed like Guru Gobind Singh, whereas, the truth is that he not only dressed like the Guru, but also attempted to replicate, to a large extent, what the Guru did on the day of the foundation of the Khalsa (in spite of the counter-claims made in the latest press statement put out by the Dera). He tried to do a ‘role play’, in which he put himself in the place of the Tenth Master. (link)

He goes on to make some direct allegations about the murder of a family member by DSS members.

The note of outrage in SidhuSaaheb’s account of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s actions is one I’ve also heard from every other Sikh I’ve talked to in recent weeks, as this has been unfolding. The sense of outrage is also very much present in this Outlook article by Chander Suta Dogra, which is worth a read — though I would appreciate citations to substantiate the statistics Dogra gives on the popularity of the Deras and the “decline” of the Sikh community.

114 thoughts on “Dera Sacha Sauda and the Sikhs of Punjab

  1. apart from alll info above i want to bring to the notice that during bhajan lal’s govt. a truckload of illegal arms were recovered from dera sacha sauda….. i dont know for what these were bought………….

  2. @Singh (#89…)

    *Just a little reading of credible and independent news resources and journalists makes that plain.


    All you did was copy & paste from others’ blogs. Not so “credible & independent news resources” you claim to be. At least try to properly credit those “resources.”

    The irony speaks volumes. Thanks for the laugh.

  3. i think those people who r refering themselves as sikhs in this forum r not sikhs how can a sikh follow adeh dhari or a human when GURU GOBINDSINGH JI made the shabd guru inmy opinion first ofall they must not refer themselves as sikhs . they r not sikhs

    people commenting here that growing hair does notmake a person a sikh but everybody listen GURU JI has said REHAT PYAARI MUJHKO SIKH PYAARA NAHI . a true sikh must follow the rehat

    and about SIKHS BEING VIOLENT AFTER THIS ISSUE open your eyes and read that no dera sacha sauda has been killed so far and people trying to tell that sikhs attacking and trying to kill dera followers wat the hell trying to kill if they would have tried to kill they must have killed even one

  4. reading above all , i just request all people please pray to god and discuss with your family members and friends to bring peace not only to india but also to whole world. you are the one can bring peace to this world. true dera followers and true sikh followers , and all others please help each other to bring peace on this earth, this caste system in india is a production of somebody who did not knew that it will create problem in world . HE ALSO SHOULD BE FORGIVEN, GOD KNOWS WHO IS LOW WHO IS HIGH. We all try to help each other then this world will be more safe and as good as heaven on this earth.

  5. It is not allowed in Sikhism that anyone can dress, act, copy like Gurus in real life, dramas or movies. And if someone does so it is considered to be a mockery. Who the hell is this Baba then. This is how it is . And also people should not comment on how Sikhs reacted and how it is not offensive to dress like Gurus. First do some homework about a religion , get some info and then think and comment or you wud end up in trouble like this BABA. I guess it shud b clear now.

  6. Malik de banaye hoye bando,

    Kuch Hosh Karo. Us malik to daron. Eh comments sirf tuhade hankar te nafrat nu reflect kar rahe han. Eh Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj di sikhya nahi. Ki tusi Guruya di sikhya nu bilkul hi bhul chuke ho apne aap nu khalsa (sab to pawitar) kehlan wale. Oh malik jare jare wich mojud hai te tuhade dil da haal janda hai.

    Hale wi time hai, apne dil wich prem peda karo. Nahi ta tuhanu pata hi hai… Bada dukh hunda hai Nit-Nem karan to baad wi tusi nafrat di aag wich sadh rahe ho! Please hankar wich aa ke dharam de thekedar na bano. Oh Malik Har Insan wich Wasda hai. Es lyi Kise naal nafrat karni us malik naal nafrat karni hai. Eh hi sade dharam di sikhya hai. Ki Tusi bhul gye????



    This is the question coming again and again into my thoughts. After this dera-sikh dispute, I listened very attentively and with an open mind to the dera satsangs and majlis. Let me tell the truth. Most if not everyone, atleast during the satangs/majlis inside the dera, seem to be at their most well-being state praying/dancing in love far away from hatred against any one. I could never hear, to my understanding of sikh history-traditions-teachings, anything against Sikhism or any other religion. The significance of this truth becomes many folds given that some forces could defame dera in the media very successfuly (almost perfectly). After every 7 days they are repeating Jame Insan ceremony (baptism) for atleast 50,000 followers, every last sunday of month some tens thousands get NAAM (method of meditation). The reason is simple. The dera teachings (as per the teachings of religions including sikhism) make a sense in the society. However, dera has nothing to do with the culture/tradition stuff. They emphasis on the teachings.

    I feel that this sense of insecurity would not help the community so far as human values are concerned. For example, dera head, when appeared in a dress, looked to be like Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. However, Punjab Police, could not find any similiarity of this dress to the original Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s dress when examined independenty from Dera head.

    According to me, Sikhs should not worried/feared from Dera. They are really doing nothing against anyone’s religious sentiments. Many times Dera head was heard preaching Please Follow Your Relgion!

  8. i agree with the ‘ a socialist’ that there is not even a single preaching of dss which is anti sikh or rather anti hindu, anti muslim taken as a whole. i think dss is being defamed by a few culprit mediamen on the orders of their aakas. i have been going to dss and hav’nt found any thing anti religious. infact it is told there that you should follow ur religion rather that just showing the fake feelings for it.if still any body is having doubt then he/she can personally visit dss and see the reality. thanks

  9. brother vishev do you know this thing when guru nanak dev ji used to preach sometime he wear the dress of muslim prophet even evev he was hindu,when this issue came up some people asked guru ji why u put the muslim dress during the satsang then he said basically there is no hindu ,n muslim is real we r one actually sikh people completly lost their way and the preacher in sikh religion add saint with their name,then they explain dnt love saints love only holy gurbani why sikh sangat s sentiments dnt heart that time? holy gurbani gave very high place to saints same as god SANTO KO MAT KOI NINDO SANT RAM HAIH EKO or SAT PURKH KI AARSI SANTI KI HAIH DEH (BODY) LAKHNA JO CHAHE ALKH KO INHI MEIN LAKH LE Body of a perfect master is like a mirror if someone want to see god he/she can see only and only through the mirrir(means through saint) Holy gurbani say that god is formless but perfect master is the body of god means there is no diffeence between god and saint. AAP VICHARE SO PARKHE HIRA EK DRISTI TARE GURU PURA

  10. shabad guru was here before existence of sikh religion,hindu muslim and christian prophets gave same shabad to their followers,shabad is not the wording on any holy religion book,this is shabad given by perfect master if we trust on our satguru and pray regularly then then this shabad is able to attach us with dhur ki bani which is inside us.some people says that saint is perfect who attach us with bani absulutly true still some people confused about bani,this bani is not the name of any holy book,pavitar gurbani s pavitar wording give the evidence here NIRMAL NIRMAL TERI BANI GHAT GHAT SUNI HAR GHAT BAKHANI it means that bani is everywhere now you think this holy book is nit everywhere muntains valleys jungals even there r so many coutries there is sikh temple but holy bani says thst bani is everywhere,master who attach us with this bani he is true satguru,pita ji is the perfect master in this time,there is no other way to meet god.some people who already had amrit daan from sikh religion they can feel this thing GHAR MEIN GHAR DIKHA DEY SO SATGUR PURKH SUJAN means anyone who make us able to see our real home(sachkhand)in our body he is true satguru

  11. I am a well to Sikg from a respectable Industrialist family and we are associated with Dera sacha sauda for last 26 years. The Dera chief Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim singh Is a puran sant the True saint of the likes of kabir, Jesus. They promte pace and selfless service and work for poorrest of poor and downtrodden the people whom governments neglect because they have no voice. The dera chief spreads message of love harmony and seva or selflessservice and he leads by example. They have broken guiness book of world record for maximum blood donation in a single camp and day and have maximum eye and organ donation such is the spirit of selfless service propgated by the present guru .The guru only spreads tolerance and rwespect for various religion by quoting for Quran pak, Granth sahib, bible and therefore I begun to respect all religion once I became there follower. The various sikg heads should contemplate that why are they fihgthing aginst one person why are they afraid of him or why do they feel threatened by him because of which they want to stop his satsangs or stop the harmny he is spreading by spreading unrest in his name. For example if he goes somehere why do you insult him and call out dirty things the followers have never retaliated following there guru and only when this stime when the sikhs sorrounded him and few orphan children who were shopping in one mall the one secuirty gueard fired . The dera prinvciples says dont even kill a snake and they value human form because it is abode of god so please dont get sawyed by messages of the so called leaders at SGPC or Dam Dami taksal rather think who is at fault and what threatens them

  12. Dear Friends, Only guru is Shiri Guru Granth Sahib. I am not believe in such kind of gurus. They all are political tattuu. Only believe in Guru Granth Sahib dont go behind such type of people.