ON MONDAY, after a special CBI court sentenced Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a rape case, Akal Takht jathedar (chief) Giani Gurbachan Singh on Monday denied ever having pardoned the dera chief for his alleged blasphemous act by ‘imitating’ the tenth Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh. After a massive backlash from Sikh organisations and activists, 23 days after it exonerated dera chief in September 2015, the Akal Takht had revoked its decision and cancelled what it called a “gurmatta” in which the Takht had “accepted” a letter purportedly written by him in apology.
Now, the Akal Takhthead says when no pardon was granted, there was no question of revoking the pardon. “Je kise di chithi aa jave taan ki maafi ho jaandi hai ? (If there is a letter by someone to Akal Takht, does that mean Akal Takht has pardoned that person),” Singh told The Indian Express.
The Punjab & Haryana High Court is hearing a revision petition against his acquittal by a Bathida court for sacrilege under Section 295 A.
In a press note on September 24, 2015, the Akal Takht said all five Sikh high priests had accepted the “written apology” by the dera chief even though the dera itself said Ram Rahim had written no letter.
“A few days ago, the Akal Takht received a letter from representatives of the Dera Sacha Sauda head. Giving clarification, while using humble words over the 2007 episode., the Dera head has apologised and said he could not even imagine copying Guru Gobind Singh. Following customs and tradition of the Panth, all five high priests of Sikhs have accepted this apology letter and clarification that he will not do any such act in the future, which can hurt sentiments of Sikhs and other religions,” read the Akal Takht press note.
After a massive backlash and criticism by Sikh community, 23 days after this announcement, Akal Takht chief said in a statement, “Keeping in view the sentiments of the community, the Sikh clergy decided to annul the earlier edict (of September 24, 2015) as the Dera chief is not a real saint and his apology is not acceptable to the Akal Takht.”
On Monday, Akal Takht chief said, “The letter from dera was only accepted at Akal Takht for discussion. Later, keeping in view the sentiments of Sikh community it was decided not to discuss the request and the letter was rejected. Questioning of granting pardon does not arise at all under the given circumstances. Some people spread a flase propaganda.”
The Dal Khalsa reacted sharply to the Akal Takht’s latest positioning on Dera Sacha Sauda. “The conviction of heretical cult head Gurmeet Ram Rahim has shamed the politicians of all shades and brought huge embarrassment and humiliation to the Takht Jathedars, who are toeing the line of the Badals and tactically exonerated this sinner, a decision they had to eat later on when challenged and contested by the Sikh Sangat.,” Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh told The Indian Express.
The Akal Takht jathedar, who is the head of the highest temporal seat of Sikhs, is appointed by the Sikh apex representative body Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). Shiromani Akali Dal has direct control over SGPC as it has a sweeping majority in the 170-member elected house. The SGPC president is chosen by the Shiromani Akal Dal president, currently Sukhbir Singh Badal, former deputy chief minister. The belief was widespread in the Sikh community that SAD was behind the controversial ‘pardon’ by Akal Takht to dera chief for political gains, and for the later revocation after huge outrage in the Sikh community.
Asked at the time if SAD had not gone against the Akal Takht’s edict in accepting Dera support, the Akal Takht said it had not received any complaints about SAD leaders taking the dera’s help before the election. Only after the voting was done that the Akal Takht finally summoned the Sikh leaders, but also said other parties too had taken dera help in the elections were not limited to SAD. Members of all three parties SAD, Congress and AAP, were summoned.
The Akal Takht said he welcomed the verdict against Ram Rahim, and said if there were in possible similar situations in other deras, they too must speak up.