Akal Takht pardons Sikh offender Ram Rahim without him appearing in person

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Making a historic exception by exempting an ‘offender of Sikhs’ from appearing before it in person, the Akal Takht — the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion — on Thursday finally pardoned Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who had been accused of hurting Sikh religious sentiments after wearing an attire allegedly similar to that of Guru Gobind Singh.

‘He didn’t impersonate’

In his letter, he has clarified that he respects all Sikh Gurus and deities of other religions and that he could never imitate them. He has also denied impersonating Guru Gobind Singh. He hassent a CD presenting his side of the story. Giani Gurbachan Singh, Akal Takht jathedar

The Akal Takht said it had received and accepted a written “apology” from Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for the events dating back to May 13, 2007, when the Dera chief attended a congregation at Salabtpura village in Bathinda, dressed in an attire similar to the one associated with Guru Gobind Singh. Within days, clashes had erupted between Sikhs and the Dera followers after the then Akal Takht jathedar (chief priest) Joginder Singh Vedanti issued a diktat, urging Sikhs to boycott the Dera Sacha Sauda sect head and his followers. Since then, repeated efforts to broker a truce failed to materialise as the Akal Takht insisted that Gurmeet Ram Rahim must appear in person and apologise.

Written in Punjabi, the clarification bears the dera chief’s signatures but he has neither expressed regret nor apologised over his alleged blasphemous act. He has merely denied the allegations of impersonating Guru Gobind Singh while stating he respects all Sikh Gurus.

Sikh Groups condemn the Apology

Various Sikh bodies said the clergy’s move had come under “political pressure”.

Former Akal Takht jathedars, meanwhile, strongly condemned the pardon. “Many letters of such clarifications were brought to the notice of the Panth while I was the Akal Takht Jathedar. But all these letters were rejected for two reasons: the Dera head never directly apologised and in fact justified what he did. And second, he never appeared in person,” said former Akal Takht jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, who had issued the first diktat.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh said it was perhaps the first time someone had been pardoned without even appearing before the Takht. “The Jathedar has violated the norms. The clandestine pardon raises suspicion. The Badals (CM Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal) have misused the seat of Jathedar for their votebank politics,” he alleged.

AISSF chief Karnail Singh Peermohammed termed the decision “politically motivated” saying it would be written in “black letters”. SGPC ex-member Jaswinder Singh said the dera chief had neither apologised nor expressed remorse in his letter.