Mass protests, frequent bandhs, rallies and the swearing in of Sikh youths as marjeevras (sacrificial squads) by the Akal Takht to avenge the insult—all in a span of just two months—have suddenly affected the calm in Punjab. And the blunders of a Baba on a self-aggrandising trip and his followers are being amplified and cashed in on by vested political interests.
Until 1998, when the Akal Takht excommunicated him from the Sikh Panth for religious misconduct, hardly anyone had heard of the self-styled Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara. His expansive dera (ashram) at Dhamiana village in Ropar district, like other numerous deras that dot Punjab's rural landscape, hardly attracted public attention. The Baba himself, though controversial, continued to propagate his heretical line to his followers who included leaders from the Akali Dal and the Congress, senior officials in the administration, police and even the civil services.