The underlying resentment between followers of a Sikh sect, a majority of them Dalits, and upper caste Sikhs appeared to have sparked the large scale violence in Punjab in the wake of the killing of a sect leader in Vienna.
As soon as the reports came in about the attack on the leaders of Dera Sachkhand, their followers took to the streets to lodge protest against the Vienna incident. Some leaders of the sect in Jalandhar, where it is based, had called for a bandh on Monday.
The Dera has a strong following in the Adharmi community of the state, especially in Doaba region, which includes Jalandhar and neighbouring areas. The Dera is estimated to have about 40-50 lakh followers all over the state.
The rift between the upper caste Sikhs and the sect has been brewing over the presence of a Dera guru along with the Guru Granth Sahib at social functions. Sikhism detests rituals and personal glorification of living 'gurus'.
As marriages and all functions of Adharmi community take place in Ravi Dass temples in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, where the Dera leaders sit, the Sikh community has been taking objection to the presence of any living guru in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib.
Even during the preaching by Sant Niranjan Das at Guru Ravidass Gurudwara in Vienna, some hardcore Sikhs objected to the presence of the Sant along with Guru Granth Sahib and opened fired on the Dera leaders, sect followers alleged.
While Sant Niranjan Das was injured in the Vienna attack, a Dera leader Sant Rama Nand died.
Dera Sachkhand has been carrying out various social and cultural activities, including running a hospital, a specialised eye hospital and a model school attracting a large number of people from the backward classes.