Amid row, Akal Takht jathedar hints at stepping down, cites poor health
AMRITSAR: Amid growing demands for his removal for pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in a blasphemy case, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh on Saturday hinted at tendering his resignation from the post citing poor health.
Speaking to a TV channel here, the jathedar said, “I am not feeling well for some days. I will first get a medical check-up done and will then take a call.”
During the conversation he did not deny the possibility of stepping down.
He, however, was not available for comments on phone. His personal assistant said the jathedar is unwell for some time.
He denied the media reports over resignation. “The jathedar will talk to Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Gobind Singh Longowal and other Sikh bodies before taking a final decision on this,” he said.
The speculations over his likely resignation have become stronger as the jathedar has curtailed his activities and has not called any meeting of the Sikh clergy in the last three months.
The Akal Takht during the tenure of Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti as jathedar had directed the Sikh community to boycott the Sirsa-based dera and its chief for imitating 10th Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh in 2007. The Sikh clergy chaired by Giani Gurbachan Singh pardoned the dera chief in September 2015 following which he faced a massive backlash from the community.
Even as he had revoked the pardon few weeks later, Giani Gurbachan Singh still faced resentment with the pardon still being a hot button on Punjab’s religious and political landscape.
After the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission’s report on sacrilege and killing of Sikh protesters in police firing was tabled in the Vidhan Sabha by the government, the issue again took centre stage in the state. The report underlines the alleged role of the Badal family in granting apology to the dera chief.
Apart from the Sikh bodies who are already seeking removal of Giani Gurbachan Singh, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) which controls the SGPC demanded that the jathedar be replaced in view of the resentment against the party.
Sources said the SAD high command is looking for a suitable candidate from Sikh bodies to replace him. The search is becoming onerous as many who had strong panthic credentials are not keen to take up the jathedar’s post since they feel the Badals influence the functioning of the Akal Takht.
Giani Gurbachan Singh