The three-member panel formed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to probe into the pre-poll pact between the Shiromani Akali Dal and Dera Sacha Sauda has finally submitted its report to Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh on Monday, exactly a month after it was set up on February 6.
Though the contents of the report were kept secret, sources said the SGPC panel named more than 40 politicians of the Akali Dal, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress who sought support from the Sirsa dera before the Punjab assembly elections.
After receiving the report, Giani Gurbachan Singh said: “Akal Takht had directed the sangat to sever social and political ties with some organisations, including the Dera Sacha Sauda. But recently, some politicians, in a bid to get votes in the assembly elections, established contact with such organisations. This prompted Akal Takht to direct the SGPC to conduct the probe.”
“Akal Takht has received the report and its contents will be discussed with high priests of all five Takhts on Wednesday. The decision will be taken at a meeting of high priests after Hola Mohalla,” said the Akal Takht jathedar.
The jathedar, however, didn’t reveal what action will be taken against those named in the SGPC report. “It will be decided at the meeting of Sikh high priests,” he said.
SGPC general secretary Amarjit Chawla, who is also part of the three-member probe panel, said: “It was not an easy task. The role of leaders of three main political parties was to be probed in all 117 assembly constituencies. It required a lot of time and effort. Now, it’s up to Akal Takht to take action.”
To a question how many people have been named in the report and their political affiliation, Chawla said: “I can just say that a detailed report has been submitted to the Akal Takht jathedar. Contents of the report are secret as it’s a sensitive matter. I cannot divulge details.”
The row erupted after the Dera Sacha Sauda decided to support the Akali Dal in the assembly elections. The move kicked up a storm when Akali candidates from nine constituencies of Bathinda and Mansa districts attended a meeting organised by the dera’s religious wing at a banquet hall in Bathinda. The Akali Dal went a step further and announced to facilitate dera “satsangs” in Punjab, in open defiance of the Akal Takht’s 2007 edict that Sikhs must boycott Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
The dera head last held a congregation in Punjab in May 2007 at Salabtpura village in Bathinda, where he courted controversy by wearing attire allegedly similar to that of Guru Gobind Singh. Then, the Takht issued a ‘hukamnama’ (edict) against the dera head and accused him of blasphemy, besides calling upon Sikhs for his social boycott. The issue led to violence in different parts of state between Sikhs and dera followers.
In September 2015, the Takht had pardoned Ram Rahim for the May 2007 ‘blasphemy’. The decision had come in for widespread criticism from Sikh hardliners, who had alleged that it was “politically motivated” by the SAD to secure dera the support for the 2017 assembly polls. Under pressure, the Takht had to reverse its pardon decision. Hence, the 2007 edict remains in force.
May 2007: Akal Takht issues ‘hukamnama’ against Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, accusing him of blasphemy, calling upon Sikhs for his boycott for imitating Guru Gobind Singh
September 2015: Akal Takht pardons the dera head
October 2015: After facing criticism from the Panth, Akal Takht revokes pardon
February 2017: Akali leaders attend dera event in Bathinda; dera assures support to SAD-BJP candidates and Akali Dal promises to facilitate dera ‘satsangs’ in Punjab
February 4: Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh asks SGPC to form a probe panel
February 6: SGPC forms three-member panel