Punjab has been witness to the emergence of a large number of Deras due to the continued social exclusion and pervading inequality in the social and economic order that refuses to go away despite the rise of Sikhism which in normative terms is opposed to caste based discrimination and glorifies manual labour.
In Punjab, the number of Deras are not in hundreds but in thousands. A study conducted by the Desh Sewak, a Punjabi newspaper published from Chandigarh, gives figures that there are more than 9000 Sikh as well as non-Sikh Deras in the 12,000 villages of Punjab.
Many of the dera movements started as reform movements in Sikhism but with passage of time they became anti-Sikh and started believing in bodily form of gurus.
Here, we will discuss about the Top 10 Most Prominent Anti-Sikh Deras in Punjab:
1. Sant Nirankari Mission (Nakli Nirankari) – The Sant Nirankari Mandal is a heretic cult headquartered in Delhi, India and most of its followers are excommunicated from Sikhism. It sect has no relationship with the Sikhs, but the Sant Nirankari Mandal (group) tries to use the holy Sikh scriptures for attracting followers and collecting funds, without believing in Sikhism. In fact this group is anti-Sikh and anti-religion.
The present leader of this dera is Hardev Singh. At present this sect has got atleast 15 branches in different cities of Punjab.
They use Gurbani/Guru Granth sahib ji’s teachings to propagate their own group/aim by misinterpreting Gurbani in many ways according to their convenience mainly to vein Sikhs away from Gurbani and make them followers of their own sect.
4. Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa – The Dera Sacha Sauda had been established in 1948. At the beginning it was a branch of the Dera Radhasoami (Beas).
In May 2011, the dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, performed a ceremony called Jaam-e-Insa. Imitating the Khalsa Formation cermony by Guru Gobind Singh ji, this anti-Sikh cult asked seven of his followers to drink an elixir called Jaam and to renounce their caste name for the term insa (short for insaniyat or humanity). This ceremony was held at its main branch in Punjab situated at Salabatpura village in Bathinda district, the heartland of the Malwa region.
5. Divya Jyoti Jagaran Sansthan, NoorMahal
Noormahal was the second cult to have physical clash with the Sikhs after Narakdharis. The cult was started by a Bihari “bhaeeya” named Ashutosh who has been clinically dead from last few months but his followers have been naming it as his ‘samadhi‘.
The Noormahal based dera has been involved in carrying out anti-Sikh activities in the past several years.
6. Dera Sachkhand Ballan – A primarily lower caste dera situated in village Ballan in Jalandhar with a dedicated Scheduled Caste following, Dera Sachkhand is a sect devoted to the teachings of Guru Ravidas — a 15th century saint associated with the Bhakti Movement, whose devotional poetry is included in the Guru Granth Sahib. This dera shot to limelight in 2009 after head Sant Niranjan Das was attacked by some Sikh hardliners in Vienna. While he survived, his deputy Sant Ramanand Dass died in the attack. Angered, the dera followers, returned the Sikh holy book Guru Grantha Sahib to the SGPC as a mark of protest. This death of the Guru had triggered riots in Punjab. The Ravidas Deras of Ballan and Chak Hakim near Pathankot shot to fame during the Adh Dharam. The Dera does not openly show any political preference, though after the violence of 2009, the dera was not too sympathetic towards the Akali Dal. In 2010, it broke away from Sikhism and began calling themselves Ravidasia Dharam.
This is a very tiny list of the most prominent deras established state-wide in Punjab, there are thousands of smaller unknown deras established in Punjab these days to attract the attention of various politicians. In the long run the nexus formed by these self serving groups are only causing harm to the true religious communities in Punjab, namely the Sikhs.
7. BHAINIARWALA DERA: Based in Ropar district, dera head Baba Piara Singh Bhaniarwala has been on the hit list of radical Sikhs since 2001 after he was said to have asked his followers to stop praying from Guru Granth Sahib. He was arrested in 2001 for hurting religious sentiments after he published the Bhavsagar Granth. The controversy over the granth refuses to die down. Founded in the 1990’s and headed by Bhaniarawala — a Class IV employee of the Punjab horticulture department — who claims to be spiritually enlightened baba. Bhaniarawala is acclaimed among his followers as a “miracle healer”. While post 2001, he did not favour of any leader, former home minister and Governor Bihar Buta Singh was once considered to be his followers. The followers of this dera are not likely to vote for the Akali candidates whom they consider as Panthic candidates.
8. Dera Baba Murad Shah, Nakodar
9. Dera Begowal
10. Dera Baba Mast Ram Ji. Jattana
Various Sikh Organisations really need to Unite together and