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Saturday, Nov 23, 2019

Blasphemy case: ‘Dera chief was pardoned by Akal Takht on basis of 8-year-old letter’

Ex-MP reveals he had drafted the letter brought by Swamy Agnivesh in 2007; endorses Giani Iqbal Singh’s claim that word ‘apology’ was added to it by Akal Takht in 2015

chandigarh Updated: Mar 23, 2019 22:40 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Former SAD MP Tarlochan Singh (Centre)in Amritsar on Monday.
Former SAD MP Tarlochan Singh (Centre)in Amritsar on Monday. (HT Photo)
         

Former Rajya Sabha member Tarlochan Singh on Saturday claimed that the Akal Takht had pardoned Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in 2015 on the basis of an old letter brought by Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh on behalf of the dera head in 2007.

Talking to HT, Singh also claimed that the 2007 letter was drafted by him and the word ‘apology’ was not part of the original letter.

“The word ‘apology’ was added to it later as stated by Giani Iqbal Singh recently,” said the ex-MP, who was here to address a seminar organised by the Chief Khalsa Diwan (CKD) on the philosophy of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak at its head office here.

Giani Iqbal Singh, former jathedar of Takht Patna Sahib, had stated that the 2007 letter was modified at the Akal Takht at the time when the dera chief was pardoned in the blasphemy case by the Sikh clergy in September 24, 2015. The apology was revoked by the Takht later after facing a massive backlash by the Sikh organisations.

Giani Iqbal Singh, after resigning as Takht Patna Sahib jathedar, recently claimed that the words ‘khima da jachak’ (the one who seeks pardon) was not part of the original letter sent by the dera head. These words were added to the letter at the Takht later, he had said.

Giani Iqbal Singh was among the Sikh clergymen, headed by the then Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, who took the controversial decision of granting the apology to Ram Rahim.

Tarlochan Singh said Giani Iqbal Singh has reopened the matter by making the disclosure in this regard.

“The letter on which the dera chief was pardoned was drafted by me and brought by Swami Agnivesh to the Akal Takht soon after Ram Rahim committed the blasphemy (by wearing an attire similar to the one worn by tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh) in 2007,” he said.

He added, “Agnivesh had urged the Akal Takht to pardon the dera chief. However, the Takht refused to pardon him at that time. The letter remained lying with the Takht for eight years. Finally, they used the same letter while pardoning the dera chief in 2015 by adding the words related to apology.”

Notably, Punjab witnessed bloody clashes between Sikh activists and dera followers after the 2007 blasphemy episode of the dera chief. The Akal Takht issued a hukamnama (religious edict) asking the Sikh community to boycott the dera.

Leading a delegation, Swami Agnivesh reached out to the Akal Takht on May 29, 2007 with a letter signed by the dera chief to resolve the matter.

Even as three years have passed since the Sikh clergy granted the controversial pardon to the dera head, the row over the move refuses to die down.

Another member of the Sikh clergy that took the decision, the then head of Takht Damdama Sahib Giani Gurmukh Singh had claimed that the then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal pressured the Sikh clergy to grant pardon to the dera head.

While addressing the CKD seminar, Tarlochan Singh criticised the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for failing to spread the teachings of Guru Nanak in the world and indulging in politics.