The Tribune – Forced to testify against Badals: Witness

Claims Justice Ranjit Singh, minister made him sign ‘false’ statement

Ruchika M Khanna, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 20 August 2018. Himmat Singh, brother of Akal Takht head granthi Giani Gurmukh Singh, on Monday retracted the statement he had given earlier to the Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission.

Days before the report on sacrilege cases is to be tabled in the Assembly, Himmat said he had been forced to sign documents mentioning that SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal and party chief Sukhbir Badal had coerced Giani Gurmukh Singh, then Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, and other Sikh high priests to grant pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a blasphemy case.

He accused Justice Ranjit Singh and Jail Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa of making him give “false” testimony. Both have denied the allegations.

The Commission report has held the grant of pardon (later revoked) to the Sirsa dera chief as a precursor to the sacrilege incidents of 2015.

Giani Gurmukh Singh was sacked by the SGPC in April last year as Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib and transferred to a gurdwara in Jind after he had accused Sukhbir of having a role in the dera chief’s exoneration in September 2015.

On August 3 this year, Giani Gurmukh Singh was appointed head granthi of Akal Takht.

Talking to The Tribune here, Himmat, while claiming that he was in hiding for fear of harm from Randhawa, said he was not even allowed to read the statement attributed to him. “The statement was in English as well as Punjabi. I cannot read English and the statement in Punjabi was not shown to me,” he alleged.

Himmat said he had been quoted in the report as saying that he was accompanying his brother (Giani Gurmukh Singh) when the high priests were summoned by the Badals to the Chief Minister’s residence in September 2015.

According to him, the Commission report mentions his name as a witness who was present on September 16, 2015, at the CM’s residence, where then minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema read out a letter saying that Ram Rahim had sought pardon for having imitated Guru Gobind Singh and all Jathedars were to withdraw the earlier ‘hukumnama’ asking Sikhs to socially boycott the dera chief.

Sources said Himmat had told the Commission that it was on his mobile phone that Sukhbir had been calling Giani Gurmukh Singh to exert pressure on him to withdraw the ‘hukumnama’.

“I had neither gone to meet the Badals nor visited the SGPC office on the given date. I was pressed by Randhawa to come to Chandigarh and sign a baseless statement on December 11, 2017, after I had resigned as a granthi in October last year,” he said.

Himmat further alleged: “Justice Ranjit Singh told me not to disclose what statement I had signed and asked me to maintain that the statement was from my side. I have never met the Badals, but after I resigned, Randhawa kept coercing me to accuse the Badals and the SAD.

He would make phone calls… As a devout Sikh, I am deeply hurt by the sacrilege incidents, but my conscience doesn’t allow me to blame someone who is innocent.” He showed photos of his meetings with the Commission chairman and Randhawa.

He himself approached me: ex-judge

Justice Ranjit Singh expressed surprise that Himmat had retracted his statement. “Why would I press him to make a particular statement? I did not even summon him. He approached the Commission on his own. The record of his signed statement typed in Punjabi is available.

He has changed his statement maybe because Himmat Singh’s brother Giani Gurmukh Singh was recently reinstated by the SGPC,” said Justice Ranjit Singh, adding that Himmat had even given them copies of the gurmatas passed on September 24, 2015 (pardon to dera chief) and October 16, 2015 (when pardon was withdrawn).

Charges baseless: Randhawa

Jail Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa refuted Himmat Singh’s allegations. “He has met me twice, along with one of my supporters, Rupinder Singh, seeking a government job. Since he is just a matriculate, he is not eligible for any job.

Though I promised to help him, I don’t know why he is levelling these baseless allegations. I have no role to play in his appearing before the Commission or making any statement,” the minister said.