The deteriorating health of former militant Gurbaksh Singh, who is on fast-unto-death for the release of the Sikhs who are held prisoners beyond normal life sentence, seems to be worrying Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh.
Aware that Gurbaksh Singh ended his fast in December 2013 on his assurance that the prisoners would be released; which had not happened, he has asked Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar to visit Gurdwara Lakhnaur Sahib in Ambala where the former militant is on hunger strike. "The SGPC chief will appeal to him to at least take the advice of medical experts," the jathedar said at a hurriedly convened press conference on Monday here.
The jathedar made no appeal to the former militant to end his fast, as he knows well that he won't oblige him this time. He also made no mention of a "hukamnama" (edict) to the Punjab chief minister and the deputy CM to get the Sikh prisoners released; but said the Punjab government "was lax indeed in pursuing the cases; else, we wouldn't be in this situation". The former militant wants the Akal Takht to issue the edict.
Giani Gurbachan Singh said Makkar had informed him that the SGPC would form a panel of lawyers for starting the legal process to get the detainees out. With the state government taking a back seat, the jathedar himself had to go to New Delhi last week and send a delegation to home minister Rajnath Singh with a list of 80 prisoners. The home minister gave the delegation no assurance but told it there were certain legal procedures for what they wanted.
Ex-militant's life precious for 'quam', says Makkar
Amritsar: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avatar Singh Makkar has told former militant Gurkaksh Singh to take care of his health, since "his life is precious to the Sikh quam".
He made no direct appeal to him to end his indefinite fast that has gone on for 53 days now. Makkar tried to explain to the former militant the legal procedures required for the release of the detainees, and how like the court battle of the families affected in the 1984 riots, the SGPC had decided to hire top Supreme Court lawyers to fight this case as well.
The SGPC has formed a five-member committee to take up the cases and engage lawyers. Most of the 119 detainees on its list are held in Punjab but most of them have not yet completed their jail terms. Many are even under trial.
Takht asked to call meeting
Radical Sikh group the Dal Khalsa has asked the Akal Takht jathedar to convene a meeting of the "Panthic" groups and legal experts to discuss the situation since the Supreme Court interim order of July 9, 2014, that restrained the state governments from exercising their powers to reduce life sentences. Party spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh issued a statement in Amritsar that the SGPC or any other Sikh institution should challenge the order.