AMRITSAR — The former Punjab chief minister, Mr. Sujit Singh Barnala, Was on Sunday exonerated and brought back into the fold of the Sikh Panth when he presented himself before the Akal Takht after completing the “tankha” religious punishment awarded to him on December 5 by the five religious heads,

Mr. Barnala, accompanied by his wife and two Sons, arrived at the Darbur Sahib in the afternoon and headed straight for the Parshad ghar to undergo the last part of the punishment after Mr. Barnala offered parshad worth Rs2200 at the Harmandir Sahib and the Akal Takht. He had presented himself before the five head priests at the Akal Takht.

Mr. Barnala was excommunicated from the Sikh Panth in February last year for defying the Akal Takht directive asking him to resign as the president of Akali Dal (Longowal) for forging unity in the Sikh Panth’s leadership and Akali Dal. Mr. Barnala had earlier this month submitted his resignation from the presidency of Akali Dal (Longowal).

According to Mr. Gurdev Singh, secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal, a meeting of all district jathedars would be held on January 3 at Longowal village to decide on the resignation submitted by Mr. Barnala.

Soon after Mr. Barnala, accompanied by a large number of party workers, came out of the Harmandir Sahib and marched to the Akal Takht, an Ardas was performed saying that Surjit Singh Barnala had completed the ‘“‘tankha’”’ awarded to him and so he m ay be brought back into the fold of the “panth.” All this while the plaque with the words “I am a criminal due to my mistake you are the forgiver” hung around his neck.

With folded hands he stood in front of the Granth Sahib and said “Surjit Singh after completing the Tankha has come to your refuge, please forgive him and bring him back into the fold of the Panth, give me strength not to commit any mistake again.”

After the ardas, Mr. Darshan Singh, Jathedar of the Akal Takht, came before the nearly 5000 strong audience. Reciting from religious scriptures, he said “darbar” (court) of the Guru is great; it forgives everyone who comes here with a sincere heart. “No one is brought here by force. Rather it is the man’s inner voice which compels him to seek forgiveness for his misdeeds,” he said. This he said was due to the fact that a Sikh’s soul is in direct link with the Guru.”

“It is the good fortune of this man (pointing towards Mr. Barnala) that he has come to the Guru Darbar breaking many constructive forces. Akal Takht is the only court in the world which asks the offender if the punishment is acceptable, to the culprit. This shows how moderate the Sikh religion is’, Mr. Darshan Singh said.

He went on to add that he had always condemned the killings of innocent persons irrespective of their religion and said I repeat it again. Anyone who kills innocent is not a Sikh. I have repeatedly said in the past that hukamnama can only be issued to Sikhs. When people killing the innocents are not Sikhs, how can issue a hukamnama against them?’ he questioned.

He strongly criticized the Members of Parliament who had criticized the Akal Takht for punishing Mr. Barnala and had described it as interference of religion in politics. All other supporters of Mr. Barnala were also wearing the plaques around their necks along with Barnala. He said “the Akal Takht had punished only one person how come so many people have got these plaques printed on their own and are repenting. This, he said, was due to their conscience and it should serve as a slap on the face of the parliamentarians who try to interfere in the personal affairs of the Sikhs.”

As greetings of “welcome back to the Panth” were being showered. Mr. Barnala rose to speak. “I have always tried to be a good Sikh, it is very difficult to be a perfect Sikh. But from today I will try to be a better Sikh, I will try my best”’, he said.

Large crowds which had either accompanied Mr. Barnala or were visiting the Golden Temple, today being a Sunday, remained perched on the ground all through the nearly one hour long function.

The process of exoneration which was completed on Sunday had begun on December 6 when Mr. Barnala presented himself before the Akal Takht and the five head priests awarded him religious punishment of conducting five Akhand Paths (nonstop recital of the Guru Granth Sahib for two days), wear a long plaque around his neck, clean shoes, utensils and sweep floors of any gurdwara for seven days. He was also asked to deposit Rs 1100 each in the golaks of the Akal Takht and the Darbar Sahib and offer “parshad” for the same amount at the two places.

The punishments were to be completed in 18 days, the minimum period required to undergo all the punishments. It may be recalled that Mr. Barnala had been tied to the right pillar. of the Akal Takht and was asked to recite two paths of Chaupai Sahib and five of mool mantir before being awarded the punishment.

Heavy security arrangements were made all around the Darbar Sahib. Security personnel were seen standing on top of the buildings in the neighbor “hood. Many plainclothes policemen were deployed inside the temple premises and heavy frisking was done at the entrance gate. Mr. Barnala is under threat from certain militant organizations which have also threatened the jathedar of the Takht with dire consequences if Mr. Barnala is exonerated.

Article extracted from this publication >>  January 6, 1989