Sect chief should apologise in person at Akal Takht: Radical Sikh groups

Chandigarh, Oct 2 (IANS) Radical Sikh leaders on Friday termed “a sham” controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s offer to visit the Golden Temple complex and demanded that he should instead appear before the Akal Takht, Sikh religion’s highest temporal seat, to offer his apology.

“Gurmeet Ram Rahim stating that he was willing to visit Golden Temple for peace holds no water as anyone can visit it to pay obeisance irrespective of religion, caste and creed. He must come at Akal Takht in person and tender apology in clear words for his blasphemous act and pledge not to repeat the same in future,” Dal Khalsa leaders H.S. Dhami and Kanwarpal Singh said in a statement.

They said that the pardon drama enacted by the Akal Takht and the subsequent setting up of a committee to review the decision to pardon the sect chief was a diversionary tactic to defuse anger among Sikhs.

“What’s the utility of constituting the committee after issuing a clean chit to the head of heretical cult for his sacrilegious act?” they asked.

Leaders of these organisations accused the Sikh clergy of bowing to the diktats of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal to pardon the sect chief.

A controversy has erupted after the Akal Takht last Thursday said it had pardoned the sect chief after he submitted a written “apology”.

The Dera head courted controversy in May 2007 when he was accused of hurting the religious sentiments of the Sikhs by wearing, in an advertisement, an attire resembling that of the 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh.

The controversy led to violent clashes between Sikhs and the sect followers, particularly in southwest Punjab.

The Akali Dal leadership, including the Badals, and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Avtar Singh Makkar have said the Akal Takht’s decision on the sect chief’s pardon issue was final and the Sikh community should accept it.

The timing of the pardon is being linked to the state assembly elections in early 2017 and the interest of the Akali Dal leadership to build a rapport with the sect chief since he has lakhs of followers in Punjab.

The sect chief has submitted a written apology to the Akal Takht, stating that he had no intention of showing disrespect to the Sikh Gurus or hurt the religious sentiments of the Sikh community.

The apology and the pardon brought to an end a bitter controversy, which lasted for over eight years, and led to strained relations between the Sikh clergy and community on one side and the sect chief and his followers on the other.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who has millions of followers in Punjab and Haryana, resides in his sprawling campus near Sirsa town in Haryana, 275 km from Chandigarh.

Following the clashes, the sect chief had initially offered to hold talks with Sikh leaders but he was asked to first apologise for his actions.

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