Embarrassment for justice Ranjit panel as key witness retracts from statement against Badals
Key witness Himmat is brother of Giani Gurmukh Singh, former Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib.punjab Updated: Aug 20, 2018 18:22 IST
In a major embarrassment for Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission that has submitted its report on incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib during the previous SAD-BJP government in Punjab, its key witness, Himmat Singh, has retracted from his statement against the then ruling Badal family to the commission. The report, incidentally, has been leaked even before the Punjab government could table it in the assembly session that starts from August 24. Himmat is brother of Giani Gurmukh Singh, former Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib.
On the basis of Himmat’s statement, the Badals have been nailed in the report and serious questions raised on their role in Akal Takht’s 2015 pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in a case where he is accused of hurting Sikh religious sentiments.
Himmat told select mediapersons on Monday, “Punjab jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa pressured me to sign all documents submitted to Justice Ranjit Singh in his office on my name. On October 12, 2017, Randhawa called me to his Mohali residence. From there, two of his close associates brought me to the commission’s office.”
Himmat had given details on the background leading to the grant of pardon to the dera head. As per the commission’s findings, this pardon was part of a deal that the Badals had with the dera. The commission also found that when the Badals did not keep their part of the deal, angered dera followers indulged in sacrilege.
As per Himmat’s statement to the commission, on September 16, 2015, all jathedars in the state were called to the official residence of the then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal at Chandigarh. They went there in an Innova allotted to Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh. At the residence, the then minister Daljit Singh Cheema read out a letter (written in Hindi) from the dera head asking for pardon. Himmat has told the commission that his brother opposed the grant of pardon after reaching Amritsar. Other jathedars followed him to his residence. All this happened in his presence, he had told the commission.
What the commission states
“Some vital claims have come out in regard to the background of grant of pardon to the head of Dera Sacha Sauda. Suddenly, Himmat Singh, brother of Gurmukh Singh erstwhile Jathedar Damdama Sahib appeared before the commission and has filed a written statement duly signed by him,” the commission states in his report.
On Monday, however, Himmat alleged, “Justice Ranjit Singh asked me to do sign on two places in the file on my statement that was already lying on his table. He kept asking me if I would stick to my stand. He said that the only motive of the commission was to fix the Akalis.”
He is also in possession of pictures of his meetings with Randhawa and justice Ranjit Singh. “Any independent agency can check that Randhawa used to call me to talk to me about this issue. Initially, I thought the commission would bring justice to the Sikh community whose feelings have been hurt with the sacrilege incidents. Now, when I have information that the motive of this report is to settle political scores, I decided to speak up against the commission,” Himmat claimed.
Already, the leak of the report had thrown a spanner in the Congress strategy to corner the opposition SAD, which has been roundly blamed for a string of incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in 2016 that had rocked the then SAD-BJP government. Since June 30, when Justice Ranjit Singh submitted the report to chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, both have consistently skirted media queries on the findings with a stock answer: “The report is highly confidential.”
First Published: Aug 20, 2018 18:21 IST