Making a historic exception by exempting an ‘offender of Sikhs’ from appearing before it in person, the Akal Takht — the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion — on Thursday finally pardoned Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who had been accused of hurting Sikh religious sentiments after wearing an attire allegedly similar to that of Guru Gobind Singh.
The Akal Takht said it had received and accepted a written “apology” from Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for the events dating back to May 13, 2007, when the Dera chief attended a congregation at Salabtpura village in Bathinda, dressed in an attire similar to the one associated with Guru Gobind Singh. Within days, clashes had erupted between Sikhs and the Dera followers after the then Akal Takht jathedar (chief priest) Joginder Singh Vedanti issued a diktat, urging Sikhs to boycott the Dera Sacha Sauda sect head and his followers. Since then, repeated efforts to broker a truce failed to materialise as the Akal Takht insisted that Gurmeet Ram Rahim must appear in person and apologise.
In a press note, the Akal Takht said all five Sikh high priests had accepted the “written apology”. “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,” it reads.
The Dera Sacha Sauda, however, did not confirm sending any such letter. “It is not in my knowledge. Let me confirm it,” Dera spokesperson Aditya Insaan said.
Former Akal Takht jathedars, meanwhile, strongly condemned the pardon. “Many letters of such clarifications were brought to the notice of the Panth while I was the Akal Takht Jathedar. But all these letters were rejected for two reasons: the Dera head never directly apologised and in fact justified what he did. And second, he never appeared in person,” said former Akal Takht jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, who had issued the first diktat.
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