AMRITSAR – The rift within the SGPC over the Akal Takht decision to pardon Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh over his alleged blasphemous bid to impersonate Guru Gobind Singh in 2007 yet again came to the fore with its General House endorsing the move here amid opposition by a section of SGPC members, including a few from the ruling Akali Dal.

The SGPC General House has a total of 185 members –170 are elected and 15 are nominated. In addition, the five Sikh high priests are also its members.

The number of members who attended today’s meeting was around 90, which means half of the members were absent. Of the members present, 8-10 of them opposed the move.

SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur and SGPC executive members Karnail Singh Panjauli, Mangal Singh and Bhajan Singh were conspicuous by their absence.

Among those who opposed the SGPC move included ruling SAD member Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, Surjeet Singh Kalabula, Bibi Joginder Kaur Dharamkot and Amrik Singh Shahpur.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Sant Samaj alliance had swept the SGPC elections in September 2011. The alliance won 157 out of 170 seats spread across Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. The alliance lost 10 seats in Punjab and three (out of 11) in Haryana to splinter Akali groups and other parties.

In view of the opposition, the meeting was concluded in haste as Kiranjot and Kalabula sought time to speak over the issue.

SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar presided over the meeting which the SGPC claimed was attended by all its members, though it didn’t seem to be a full attendance.

An SGPC release issued after the meeting said, “In the meeting, Makkar read out a resolution in which an appeal was made to the entire Sikh community that the Akal Takht is supreme and obeying its orders is the duty of every Sikh. Therefore, they should accept all its directions with calmness and not get misled by anybody.”

The SGPC chose to call the meeting of its members despite the fact that its General House doesn’t exist in view of the legal tangle over the Sehajdhari row.

The new SGPC House could not be formed after the last SGPC elections in 2011 as the matter of voting rights to Sehajdhari Sikhs had reached the Supreme Court.

Later, talking to the mediapersons, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur said the SGPC didn’t consult the members before passing the resolution. “If they’ve called a meeting, then the members should be allowed to air their views before taking a decision. Besides, Guru Granth Sahib was also not installed as per the traditions for holding a meeting of the SGPC members,” she said, expressing her reservation at the manner in which the Sikh clergy took the decision.

The other SGPC members opposing the move also said that they didn’t agree with the resolution endorsing the Akal Takht decision. They also claimed that the resolution was never passed in the meeting, adding that “on the contrary, it was strongly opposed”.

Meanwhile, alleging that the “pardon drama was concocted by the Badals and executed by Sikh high priests”, the Dal Khalsa and SAD (Panch Pardani) today rejected the decision to exonerate the dera chief for his blasphemous act in 2007.

Members of both the organisations today staged a silent sit-in at Akal Takht to lodge their protest against its decision to pardon the Sirsa dera head. After offering prayers at the Akal Takht, their activists converged near the Akal Takht Secretariat and stood there in protest by holding placards to convey their message.

In Jalandhar, former Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti and former Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh today demanded that the SGPC should dismiss all five Jathedars who took this decision allegedly under government pressure and had hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community in India and abroad.

Expressing displeasure against Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh at a meeting with the Sikh representatives here, the former Jathedars said they were ready for any debate on the issue provided the five Jathedars were prepared to face them. “They have committed a grave sin by going against the principles of the religion. Even the hasty manner in which the Takht announced the decision and that too without duly consulting any section of Sikh representatives is not acceptable to us. It clearly reflects how CM Parkash Singh Badal has been exploiting them as his political tools,” said former Jathedar Nandgarh.

Both the former Jathedars said they would support the half-day bandh call tomorrow on the issue. Members of various gurdwara committees alleged that they were being coaxed by the SAD leaders to support the Akal Takht decision and even their names were being wrongly mentioned in the consent list being prepared as a cover-up exercise.