The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Tuesday upheld the Akal Takht’s September 24 ‘gurmata’ (religious decree) pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
Last week, the Sikh clergy led by Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh had exonerated the Sirsa dera head of blasphemy charges after he clarified in a letter to the jathedar that he had the utmost respect for Sikh gurus and could never think of imitating them. Ram Rahim had been accused of dressing up like Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh guru, during a dera gathering in Bathinda district in 2007.
The half-page resolution of approval was read out by SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar during a specially convened meeting of the religious body held at Teja Singh Samundri Hall of the Golden Temple complex here. The meeting was attended by about 75 of the 180-odd SGPC members.
Instead of putting the resolution before the members for discussion, as is the custom, the SGPC chief himself declared it as “passed unanimously”.
Voices of dissent
A couple of SGPC members did put up their hands seeking permission to speak, but Makkar adjourned the meeting abruptly. The entire proceedings, which were barred to the media, were over in just five minutes.
“What was the need for holding a meeting if no one was to be allowed to express his or her opinion on the issue? Such a resolution could have been passed even without calling a meeting,” said SGPC general House member Kiranjot Kaur of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which controls the Sikh body.
Kiranjot, granddaughter of late Master Tara Singh, a highly respected Sikh leader of his time, was one of the first Akali leaders who had dared to criticise the Akal Takht’s decision to pardon the Sirsa dera head.
As members trooped out of the meeting, a few dissenting voices were heard. Surjit Singh Kalabala of the Simranjit Singh Mann-led SAD (Amritsar), along with Amrik Singh Shahpur and Joginder Kaur, both of the ruling SAD, and Gurmit Singh Sirsa from Haryana rejected the resolution, saying that the Akal Takht’s September 24 decision was not taken in accordance with the Takht norms.
“Makkar has made a fool of all SGPC members,” Kalabala said, demanding the dismissal of the Takht jathedars who were party to the decision exonerating the dera head.
Makkar defends decision
As Makkar emerged from the meeting, he claimed that the resolution was passed unanimously by the members present. He refused to go into the details.
“In the larger interest of peace and communal harmony in Punjab, the SGPC supports the decision of the Sikh high priests,” he told reporters.
The resolution said, “The SGPC general House unanimously approves the September 24 decision of the ‘Singh Sahibs’ (high priests) for the sake of peace and communal harmony and for the ‘chardi kala of the Panth’ (wellbeing of the Sikhs).”
The resolution noted that as the Akal Takht is the supreme temporal authority of the Sikhs, it is the duty of all Sikhs to abide by its decision. Thus, in doing so, the SGPC has upheld the dignity and honour of the Akal Takht, the resolution added.
Jathedar forms advisory panel
Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh on Tuesday evening expressed concern over the rejection of the ‘gurmatta’ by a section of the Panth. In a bid to take every section along, he announced to constitute an advisory committee comprising “impartial and learned Sikh intellectuals” to aid and advise the Akal Takht in important cases.
“Sikh social and religious organisations, sects and intellectuals and any other individual belonging to the community can send their views to this committee. This committee, after deliberating at length on viewpoints expressed by members of the community, would then tender its advice (to the Akal Takht),” the statement issued by the jathedar said, without giving a time frame on when the committee would be formed.
The statement did make a mention of the Dera Sacha Sauda case, but did not specify whether the proposed committee would solicit views of the community members on the Takht’s verdict in this case or seek views on important matters that come up before the Takht in the future. Efforts to seek a clarification proved futile as the jathedar had switched off his mobile phones.