A day after absolving Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of all charges, including committing blasphemy, a move that came in for sharp criticism from various quarters, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh did the disappearing act on Friday.
Attempts to contact him at his house or over the phone proved futile. “The jathedar is not home” was the reply reporters got as they tried to meet him at his house at the Golden Temple complex.
All four armed guards were present outside his residence. The escort vehicle and the jathedar’s official car were parked outside his house but the security personnel insisted that he was not inside.
The jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo, Giani Gurmukh Singh, was also not available at his house at the Golden Temple complex. His family claimed that he had left for Damdama Sahib but attempts to contact him proved futile as his cell phone was switched off.
Giani Gurbachan Singh and fellow jathedars are under fire from various sections for “having thrown all rules and ethics to the wind” while pardoning the dera head for his impersonation act. The critics include not just opponents of the ruling SAD but also its sympathisers, including SGPC members.
The decision of the clergy may be good for Punjab as it will help ease tension between the dera followers and Sikh groups, especially in the Malwa belt, but the hasty and secretive manner in which it was taken raised brows. Moreover, its timing suggests that the ruling Akalis want to buy peace with the dera ahead of the 2017 assembly polls.
Leading the charge against his successor was Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, who claimed that the ‘maryada’ (tradition) of the Akal Takht had been violated.
He said that in such a serious case, Ram Rahim should have made a personal appearance if he was sincere in absolving himself and ending the conflict with Sikhs.
Subba Singh, a former professor of religious studies at Khalsa College here, claimed that the wording of Ram Rahim’s letter to the Akal Takht was similar to the one sent through Swami Agnivesh in 2007. He claimed to have read the 2007 letter after it was delivered to the then jathedar (Vedanti).
“It was a clarification and not an apology letter then, and is the same now. In such a scenario, should we have waited so long to absolve the dera head,” Subba Singh claimed while pointing to the violence that followed after Ram Rahim’s ‘impersonation’ act.
He said jathedar Vedanti had refused to absolve Ram Rahim as he had not appeared in person before the Akal Takht. Ram Rahim’s attitude showed
that he had no respect for the Akal Takht and this was noted by Vedanti and even Giani Gurbachan Singh, then head granthi of Harmandar Sahib, who was party to the ‘social boycott’ decision, he added.
SGPC member Jaswinder Singh Advocate, who is also a member of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), said that even the high and mighty like Maharaja Ranjit Singh had a high regard for the Akal Takht and appeared before the temporal seat when directed to do so. There is no harm in pardoning a person but provided he or she appears before the Takht in person, he added.