Amritsar: At least 40 Sikh political leaders were on Monday awarded religious punishment by the Sikh high priests here for seeking the support of controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect for the Punjab assembly elections held earlier this year.

The religious punishment, called ‘tankah’, will involve cleaning shoes, utensils and floors at gurdwaras, performing service at ‘langar’ (community meal) and offering money at the shrines.

The punishment was announced from the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion headquartered inside the Golden Temple complex here, by four ouyt of the five Sikh high priests.

The punishment was announced following a report submitted by a committee of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the mini-parliament of Sikh religious affairs, which found that the leaders had violated the 2007 order of the SIkh high priests to boycott the sect’s head, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, and the sect.

The leaders, whose names figure in the list of religious offenders, are from the Shiromani Akali Dal, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The leaders of various parties had sought political support from the sect, which has a big following in some parts of Punjab, for the February 4 assembly elections in Punjab.

The sect had, later, openly declared support for the then ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance. In the past, the sect had supported the Congress.