Akal Takht withdraws pardon to Sacha Sauda sect chief

Amritsar, Oct 16 (IANS) The Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion, on Friday withdrew its pardon granted last month to Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

Akal Takht Jathedar (chief) Gurbachan Singh announced here that the earlier “hukamnana” (edict), issued on September 24, has been withdrawn by the five Sikh high priests.

The decision was taken at an emergency meeting of the Sikh clergy held here on Friday. The consent of the Takht Hazoor Sahib (Nanded-Maharashtra) was taken telephonically as he could not attend the meeting here.

The pardon granted to the sect chief led to resentment within the Sikh community, especially among radical Sikh leaders.

The Dera head found himself in the midst of a major controversy in May 2007 when he was accused of hurting the Sikhs’ religious sentiments.

Sikh organisations then accused Gurmeet Ram Rahim of wearing an attire in an advertisement which resembled the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.

The controversy led to violent clashes between Sikhs and sect followers, particularly in south-west Punjab.

The Sikh clergy last month granted pardon to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh following a written apology from him.

But the clergy drew flak for their pardon and were accused of bowing to the diktats of the Akali Dal leadership, particularly Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who timed the pardon to the sect chief well before the March 2017 Punjab assembly polls.

The sect chief wields substantial influence among his millions of followers in Punjab and Haryana.

In a written apology, the sect chief told the Akal Takht that he had no intention to show disrespect to the Sikh Gurus or hurt the religious sentiments of the Sikh community.

The apology and the pardon were seen as an end to a bitter chapter, lasting well over eight years, of strained relations between the Sikh clergy and the Sikh community on one side and the sect chief and his followers on the other.

The sect chief was booked by Punjab Police under various criminal sections.

He resides in his sprawling campus near Sirsa town in Haryana, 275 km from state capital 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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