Giani Mal Singh, the head priest of Takht Keshgarh Sahib, decided to forgive Joga Singh, who had attacked him on Tuesday morning.
Addressing a hurriedly-called press conference late on Tuesday night, Giani Mal Singh said he did not want to spoil the life of a Gursikh and had requested the police not to initiate any action against him. Punjab education minister Daljit Singh Cheema, SGPC member Amarjit Singh Chawla and Rupnagar senior superintendent of police (SSP) Varinder Paul Singh were also present at the press conference.
Giani Mal Singh, escaped a bid on his life on Tuesday when he was attacked with a kirpan (ceremonial sword) by a ‘paathi’ (priest) outside his residence at Anandpur Sahib. The jathedar sustained a minor injury on the right thigh.
The incident took place around 11am when the Takht jathedar was coming out of the takht manager’s office and going towards his residence on the gurdwara premises. The assailant, who was dressed up as a nihang, was identified as Joga Singh, a 20-year-old temporary employee of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) at Gurdwara Baba Gurditta Ji at Kiratpur Sahib, 11 km from the birthplace of Khalsa.
The jathedar’s security guards overpowered the attacker, who was beaten up by SGPC employees before he was handed over to the police, who whisked him away to an undisclosed location for interrogation.
The unprecedented attack on the jathedar came in the backdrop of an undercurrent of anti-clergy mood in a section of the Sikhs over the Akal Takht’s pardon to Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in the 2007 blasphemy case. The Sikh clergy has been under fire from an array of Sikh organisations, particularly radicals, over the September 24 dera verdict.
An initial police probe didn’t find Joga Singh’s affiliation with any outfit and suggested the attack to be a “self-motivated individual action”. The attacker reportedly told his interrogators that he was upset ever since the Akal Takht let off the Sirsa dera head with pardon. The accused repeatedly broke down during his interrogation, according to police sources.
The shocking incident prompted the state government as well as the SGPC to beef up the security cover of Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Giani Gurmukh Singh. Takht Keshgarh Sahib is one of five holy Sikh Takhts; the other two revered seats, Takht Hazur Sahib and Takht Patna Sahib, are outside Punjab.
While the police have increased the number of security personnel at the Akal Takht jathedar’s residence, the SGPC has also added more task force men who would accompany him during his visits to the Akal Takht premises, which is now under 24x7 surveillance of closed-circuit TV cameras.
As many as 18 gunmen form a security ring around the jathedar of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs. On Monday, when Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Giani Gurmukh Singh left Amritsar for Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda, a tight security cover was put in place for him also.
The attack on Giani Mal Singh drew condemnation from the SGPC, which has steadfastly stood by the Sikh clergy on its controversial edict. Punjab education minister Daljit Singh Cheema, who represents Rupnagar assembly segment, said it would be premature to link the attack with the dera pardon as the police were investigating the case.
Speaking to mediapersons, Giani Mal Singh said he had no enmity with anyone and didn’t even know the assailant. He said the decision to pardon the dera head was taken in the larger interest of the Sikh community, adding that only the Akal Takht jathedar could take a call on review of the verdict.