In a decision that is likely to have a long lasting impact on Punjab politics, the Akal Takht on Thursday finally exonerated Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of blasphemy charges and lifted the ‘social boycott’ imposed on him eight years ago.
The decision by the highest temporal seat of Sikhs was taken following a written apology tendered by the dera chief. The dera chief’s case was discussed by the Sikh high priests at a meeting presided over by Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh here.
“Accepting the supremacy of the Akal Takht, the Sirsa dera chief has tendered an apology,” said a written statement issued by the Akal Takht secretariat soon after the meeting.
As the apology has been accepted, the ‘hukamnama’ (edict) of May 2007 — issued by the Akal Takht the dera chief of blasphemy —stands withdrawn. The ‘hukamnama’, issued by the then Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, had called for ‘social boycott’ of the dera head by the entire Sikh ‘Panth’ till the time he doesn’t apologise and accept the supremacy of the Akal Takht.
The edict was issued after Ram Rahim appeared at a religious gathering of the dera in Bathinda in May 2007 dressed in long robes. It led to an outrage with many Sikh leaders accusing the dera head of trying to impersonate Tenth Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh. The incident had sparked violence in the dera stronghold — the Malwa belt and some adjoining districts in Haryana.
The Akal Takht had also ordered a ban on all congregations by the Sirsa-based dera in Punjab. Initially, the ban was effective but gradually dera followers started holding secret meetings in their homes. Such meetings often led to violence with Sikh groups attempting to disrupt these.
After the Akal Takht’s social boycott call, the security of Ram Rahim was further strengthened by the Haryana government. With Z-plus security, he is one of the most protected persons in Punjab and Haryana. An attempt was also made on his life by Sikh extremists near Karnal but he survived.
Furore over attire
*In May 2007, Gurmeet Ram Rahim addressed a congregation of followers in Bathinda “dressed like Tenth Sikh Master Guru Gobind Singh.”
*It triggered outrage following which the Akal Takht issued a ‘hukamnama’ (edict) indicting him for blasphemy and calling for ‘social boycott’ of the dera head by the entire Sikh ‘Panth’ till the time he doesn’t apologise
* On Thursday, a meeting of the Sikh high priests accepted the apology tendered by the dera head in a letter Ram Rahim Singh has now been exonerated of blasphemy charges.