Under fire for pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh quits post
His resignation comes amidst the growing clamour by Sikh groups for his removal over his highly controversial pardon in 2015 to the Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim.Updated: Oct 19, 2018 09:27 IST
Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh on Thursday stepped down from his post, citing health issues.
His resignation comes amidst the growing clamour by Sikh groups for his removal over his highly controversial pardon in 2015 to the Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim against whom the Sikh clergy had passed an edict for his allegedly blasphemous act of imitating Guru Gobind Singh in 2007.
In a letter addressed to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Gobind Singh Longowal, the jathedar said: “The health issues I am facing have made me realise that I am not able to perform the sewa which is full of responsibility. The Panth, SGPC president and executive committee must retire me and appoint a deserving person on this important position.”
The details of the letter were shared with the media in an email by Satinderpal Singh, jathedar’s personal assistant and close relative.
He also apologised to the Panth for granting pardon to Ram Rahim for imitating Guru Gobind Singh.
“As per Gurbani, to err is human. The decision on dera chief drew objections, but respecting the sentiments of the Panth, the decision was revoked. While performing sewa on this position, I might have committed mistakes, for which I seek apology from the Panth,” he said.
In the face of massive Sikh backlash, the clergy was forced to retract the pardon which is still widely believed to be orchestrated by SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal as part of secret deal with the Dera which commands a sizeable votebank in Malwa region of Punjab.
The pardon was followed by a series of incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in parts of Punjab and police firing that killed two Sikh protesters, stoking the Sikh anger against then ruling Akali Dal.
Jathedar’s resignation is seen as a part of Akalis’ carefully- crafted damage control strategy to blunt a fresh surge in the anti-Badals mood ignited by the Justice Ranjit Singh panel report that indicted both former CM Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir for sacrilege incidents and excessive use of police force. SAD has also been rattled by an overwhelming response to the radical Sikh leaders-led Bargari Morcha that is demanding action against those responsible for sacrilege and police firing.
SGPC spokesperson Diljit Singh Bedi, however, said they have not received the resignation letter.