Amid row, Akal Takht jathedar hints at step­ping down, cites poor health

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - HTPUNJAB - Sur­jit Singh

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

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