A day after the family of Dera Sacha Sauda follower Hari Singh, who was killed during the Panchkula violence, returned to Sikhism, Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said that doors were open for all dera followers who wanted to come back to Sikhism.
Akal Takht had issued an edict for Sikhs to boycott Dera followers in 2007 after dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim allegedly copied the dress of Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.
The edict was followed by series of clashes between Sikhs and dera followers over the years, and many lives were lost on both sides. Talking to media at his office in Amritsar on Tuesday, Akal Takht Jathedar said, “We will welcome any dera follower wants to come back to Sikhism. I would like Sikh organisations to motivate such dera followers to make a return to faith.”
He added, “I want to make an appeal to all those dera followers with Sikh background to admit their mistake and take corrective steps and return to the faith of Guru Nanak. We will welcome such followers with open arms.”
Hari Singh, who hailed from village Bangi Nihal Singh Wala in Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda, was a dera follower and died of a bullet injury during the violence after security forces opened fire to control the unruly mob in Panchkula last Friday.
Later, family of Hari Singh approached Takht Damdma Sahib, Talwandi Sabo Jathedar Harpreet Singh, and requested that the family be allowed to cremate Hari Singh’s body according to Sikh customs. The family was then also taken back into the Sikh fold by Jathedar Harpreet Singh.
“Verdict on Dera head opened our eyes. Now we feel that my father got killed for nothing. So we decided to come back into Sikhism,” said Rajpal Singh, son of Hari Singh.
Akal Takht Jathedar, meanwhile, said that that one reason behind rise of Dera Sacha Sauda was lack of preaching of Sikhism.
“Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC) has been already focusing on preaching of Sikhism in Malwa and we will try to make it more intense…As far as Sikhs getting attracted to Dera Sacha Sauda was concerned, lack of preaching is also a reason. But then many people get attracted to dera due to their materialistic needs. Any Sikh who leaves Guru Granth Sahib for a living so-called godman can be only called a mentally sick,” said the Jathedar.
About the sentencing of dera head, he said: “Sentence pronounced against the dera head has given immense pleasure to Sikhs. The justice in this case will restore the faith of people in judiciary.”
SGPC too had launched such a Ghar Vapasi campaign for Dera Sacha Sauda followers in 2007 after the dera head came in conflict with Sikhs. That campaign, however, went into cold storage after the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) allegedly reached a hidden pact with Dera Sacha Sauda before 2009 Lok Sabha elections. SAD also controls the SGPC.