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Home / India News / 2007 / May 2007 / May 30, 2007
Dailies give mixed response to Akal Takht boycott of Dera Sacha Sauda
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Dailies give mixed response to Akal Takht boycott of Dera Sacha Sauda

The cauldron of distrust and misgiving appears to be raising its ugly head again in Punjab after a gap of twenty-three years. Then, it was a fight for the perceived sanctity and safeguarding of the Khalsa, and now, it is somewhat similar, but more focussed on the protection of the Sikh maryada or faith.

By Ashok Dixit

New Delhi, May 30 : The cauldron of distrust and misgiving appears to be raising its ugly head again in Punjab after a gap of twenty-three years. Then, it was a fight for the perceived sanctity and safeguarding of the Khalsa, and now, it is somewhat similar, but more focussed on the protection of the "Sikh maryada" or faith.

The standoff between the Sikh clergy represented by the Akal Takht, the community's highest spiritual body, and the Dera Sacha Sauda, a spiritual organization based at Sirsa since 1948, and espousing its own unique brand of spiritualism and salvation, using all that is good in every religion, has dominated newspaper headlines for more than a fortnight.

Feelings of anger, violence, confusion, disenchantment and fear have found play on paper, yet the irony is that the assessment of the imbroglio is mixed - ranging from outright objection and criticism to suggestions of following the middle path of reason and balance.

The Akal Takht's decision late on Tuesday to continue its boycott of the Dera Sacha Sauda, despite the latter tendering an apology to Guru Gobind Singh has been received with mixed feelings, if edits and newspaper reports are anything to go by.

The majority of the Sikhs, it seems, has welcomed the rejection of the apology, but the papers have described the latest Akal Takht missive as a "delicate balancing act to avoid hardliners from hijacking" the spiritual body's agenda.

The Indian Express is of the view that the Akal Takht has come out with a calibrated response to the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh's apology.

"The priests of the Akal Takht have questioned the spirit behind the apology, but didn't outrightly reject it, and announced that their agitation would continue peacefully," the paper said.

It further notes that while the Dera has sought the pardon of Guru Gobind Singh, the Akal Takht edict says that only "the revered Guru is the one who can pardon, but the persons apologising must do it in the right spirit. If that spirit is missing, such apologies go waste."

The nine-point edict, however, remains silent on the closure of all Dera branches in Punjab, does not outline measures against it, and instead says that the Sikh clergy would launch a "Gurmat Prachar" to ensure that no one misuses the religious texts or symbols.

The paper opines that the Akal Takht is clear that the battle with the Deraa Sacha Sauda is an ideological one, needing an ideological solution.

The Asian Age highlights the fact that the Akal Takht laboured over its latest edict for seven hours before concluding that Gurmeet Ram Raheem's apology was insincere and dishonest.

It further says that the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti "used the harshest words possible within his religious confines" to castigate Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh.

Vedanti describes Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh's apology as a "Kameeni Harkat" (unscrupulous act), and calls him a "Paakhandi (Pretender), "Dambi" (Deceitful), "Ahankari" (Egotistical), "Kamzor (Weak) and "Buzdil" (Cowardly).

It, however, warns that the Akal Takht's persistence with the anti-Dera rhetoric could raise questions about the credibility of the Akali leadership and their sincerity to resolving the crisis in the short and long term.

But Ambasasdor Madanjeet Singh, a former senior UNESCO official is of the view that a Talibanisation of the Sikhs is taking place.

Extremely critical of the present standoff, he says in an op-ed article in The Hindu that the "ugly spectacle of sword-wielding mobs clashing with the followers of Saccha Sauda - seen by the clerical establishment as heretical - is a mockery of Sikhism."

He further goes on to say that the "real bone of contention this time is not just over religion, but caste, which the Sikh politicians, like other political parties, are lavishly using to strengthen their fundamentalist constituencies."

The Akali leadership's decision to jump onto the "Hindutva" bandwagon" he says has the makings of a "poisonous nexus designed to destroy the secular and multicultural character of Indian civilisation".

Ambassador Singh says that the recent events are an appalling desecration of the secular and pluralist grassroots culture of Indian civilisation that Guru Nanak promoted, and concludes that, "It is incomprehensible how anyone can project nine years of Khalsa as the raison d'etre of Sikhism and give it precedence over 239 years of the history of Sikh Gurus.

ANI

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