CHANDIGARH: The action of Sikh religion's highest temporal seat Akal Takht in pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh triggered strong objections today from some Sikh leaders who called it a "betrayal" of the Sikh community and "politically motivated."
Seeking to put behind a bitter row between them, the Akal Takht yesterday said it has pardoned Singh, who is accused of hurting the sentiments of Sikhs, following a letter of apology from him.
Several Sikh organisations like All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF), Bhai Mohkam Singh's United Akali Dal and Dal Khalsa also registered their protest against the decision.
The Sikh leaders said that the letter of apology given by Ram Rahim Singh should have been made public before taking any decision with regard to pardoning the chief of Sirsa headquartered sect.
"This decision (of pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda Head) has hurt the principles of Akal Takht and it is a betrayal of the Sikh community," Former Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti told PTI.
Vedanti as Akal Takht Jathedar had issued the 'Hukamnama' (edict) in 2007 against Dera Sacha Sauda head for attiring himself as the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.
In 2007, the Dera Sacha Sauda chief was accused by the Sikh clergy of attiring himself as the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, during a religious congregation of the sect at Sirsa in Haryana. Violent clashes had broken out between Dera followers and Sikhs in parts of Punjab at that time.
Vedanti noted that representatives of all Sikh organizations, scholars and intellectuals should have been consulted, just like it was done in 2007, before taking the decision to pardon the Dera chief.
"Representatives of Sikh organisations should have been called at Akal Takht and taken into confidence before announcing the decision," Vedanti said, adding that any apology that comes from a clean heart could always be considered for forgiveness.
"The letter of apology should be made public to let people know about its contents," he stressed, adding that this decision was "politically motivated".
Vedanti claimed that his Hukamnama issued in the year 2007 cannot be cancelled, stating that the present Akal Takht Jathedar was also part of that decision as Head Granthi of Golden Temple in 2007.
Former General Secretary of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) Kiranjot Kaur described the decision to exonerate Singh as "a highly objectionable" act.
"It is the first time in Sikh history that a man without presenting himself at Akal Takht and who has not sought an apology, has been pardoned. He (Dera head) has only given his clarification.
"A new precedent (with this decision) has been set which is highly objectionable and not in accordance with the Sikh maryada (Sikh traditions)," she said.
Kaur said that a 'Hukamnama' issued could not be cancelled or amended.
"Sikhs are shocked with this move and it will have ramifications somewhere," she said.
AISSF President Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad complained that the Dera Chief had not even bothered to give due respect to the Akal Takht, claiming that the sect head gave his apology on a "simple piece of paper even without any Dera stamp."