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I never visited Sirsa dera to seek votes, says SGPC president Longowal

After being elected as the 42nd president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Gobind Singh Longowal speaks to Hindustan Times for an exclusive interview.

punjab Updated: Dec 01, 2017 09:52 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
SGPC president Longowal,Longowal,Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Gobind Singh Longowal.(HT File)

A day after being elected as the 42nd president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), speaking to Hindustan Times for an exclusive interview, Gobind Singh Longowal said he never visited the Sirsa-based dera headed by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to seek votes or for any other purpose. He also spoke on various other issues. The following is an excerpt from the interview.

HT: A section of the Sikh community has opposed your election as SGPC president citing that you visited Sirsa Dera Sacha Sauda for votes, thus defying the Akal Takht’s ‘hukamnama’. How do you justify yourself?

Longowal: These allegations are false because I never visited the said dera to seek votes or for any other purpose.

HT: Why were you then declared a ‘tankhaya’ (guilty of religious misconduct) by the Akal Takht?

Longowal: I have submitted a written clarification in this regard to Singh Sahiban (Sikh clergy) stating that I did not approach the Sirsa-based dera for votes. Nevertheless, being a humble Sikh, I still performed ‘sewa’ (tankhah) at the Golden Temple, along with other people, to abide by the Akal Takht’s order.

HT: In public perception, the SGPC is considered to be a wing of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). How will you correct this perception?

Longowal: This is a propaganda against the SGPC. On Wednesday, the executive committee was elected democratically by the members.

HT: Since the Sikh clergy has pardoned Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, there is a demand that the Sikh clergy, especially Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, should be replaced. Will the SGPC under your supervision entertain this demand?

Longowal: All these issues will be resolved once we sit together.

HT: What will be your strategy to tackle the challenge that is being posed by parallel jathedars appointed at ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ in 2015?

Longowal: I will seek help from other Sikh sects and organisations to chalk out a strategy. I have no hesitation to approach anyone, including parallel jathedars, to ensure Panthic unity. I am ready to reach out to every person for the interest of the Panth.

HT: The row over the Nanakshahi Calendar refuses to die down. What will you do in this regard?

Longowal: (Smiles) See, I have just taken charge as the president of SGPC. I am new and will take some time to address all these issues.

HT: Do you agree that the influence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on the SGPC is increasing because of the alliance between the Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as is being alleged by various Sikh bodies?

Longowal: As far the Akali Dal’s alliance with the BJP is concerned, only senior Akal Dal leadership can clarify on the matter. I cannot comment on this as I have been elected president of SGPC, which is a religious body. I have two agendas, first is to manage gurdwaras in a better way, and the second is to intensify ‘dharam parchar’ (propagation of religion) drive.

First Published: Dec 01, 2017 09:12 IST