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SGPC chief Tohra passes away
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 31
Veteran Akali leader and SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra died at Escorts Hospital, New Delhi, tonight.

Mr Ranbir Singh, personal assistant to the SGPC chief, said doctors at the hospital declared Mr Tohra dead at 12.41 a.m.

According to Mr Harmail Singh, son-in-law of Mr Tohra, his body will be flown to his native village Tohra for cremation.

Ailing SGPC chief Tohra was airlifted to New Delhi in an air ambulance on the direct intervention of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Perturbed over the continuous deteriorating condition of Mr Tohra, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, former Punjab Chief Minister who visited Escorts Hospital here, spoke to Mr Vajpayee on the telephone and urged him to arrange air ambulance to transfer Mr Tohra to New Delhi.

It is learnt that Ms Sushma Swaraj, Union Health Minister, personally spoke to Dr Naresh Trehan, Executive Director and Chief Cardiac Surgeon, Escort Hospital, and asked him to send an air ambulance immediately. Dr T.S. Kaler, Senior Cardiology Consultant, reached here in an air ambulance and then decided to shift him to New Delhi after examining his condition. Before shifting Mr Tohra, Dr Kaler consulted his family members and told them about the risk of shifting. However, the family members of Mr Tohra insisted that Mr Tohra be shifted immediately.Back



He dedicated his life to Sikhism
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
SGPC chief, Gucharan Singh Tohra, who became the first Parliamentarian to be elected to the Rajya Sabha for the sixth time last week, enrolled himself as a member of the Akali Dal in 1938 and had never looked back since then. Besides, he had been a member of the Lok Sabha (1977-79) and had been in Parliament since 1969 with a minor gap.

Born in an ordinary Jat-Sikh farmer family of Tohra village in Patiala district on September 24, 1924, Tohra’s first major political action was his participation in the Akali Morcha that led to his arrest in 1944.

He became the secretary of the State Akali Dal in 1948 and its junior vice- president in 1959 after holding important positions in the party at the district level.

His “unbeaten” innings in the SGPC started in 1960 when he was elected as a member. Since then he had remained a member of this body, also called Parliament of Sikhs. In 1961, he was elected to the executive of the SGPC. An outstanding speaker on religious and political issues, Tohra was elected President of the SGPC for the first time on January 6,1973, after the demise of Sant Chanan Singh and continued to hold the office till March 23, 1986. Again he returned to this body as its chief on November 11, 1986, and held this position till November 28, 1990. He stayed out of office for about one year after this.

He staged a comeback as President of the SGPC on November 13, 1991, and stayed in the office till March 15, 1999. He resigned from the presidentship of the SGPC on March 15, 1999, after a prolonged political clash with the President of the SAD and the then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who had called all SGPC members belonging to his camp at Amritsar to remove him from the office by passing a no-confidence motion against him on March 16, 1999.

After a meeting of the executive of the SGPC at Jind in Haryana where pro-Badal members of executive had a spat with the followers of Tohra, he wrote a passionate letter to all members of the SGPC before sending his resignation to offices of newspapers. Those who replaced Mr Tohra as SGPC chief for brief periods since 1973 till date have been Mr Kabul Singh, Mr Baldev Singh Sibia, Bibi Jagir Kaur and Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar.

Split with Mr Badal denied Tohra the opportunity to be a part of the high- profile historic tercentenary celebration of birth of Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib. Tohra and his associates held a separate function at Anandpur Sahib.

Following a patch up with Mr Badal last year, Tohra, who had not been keeping well because of persisting heart problem, became the SGPC chief on July 27 last year replacing Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, a close associate of Mr Badal. He has held the office of the SGPC President for a record period of over 25 years, only with a few short breaks.

Along with his religious journey as SGPC chief, Mr Tohra was elected first time to Rajya Sabha in March 1969 to retain the seat only for one year but next time he was elected for a full term of six years till April 2, 1976. Again he was elected to Rajya Sabha in May, 1980 and then yet again on April 3, 1982, to April 2,1988. His present term as the Rajya Sabha member started on April 10, 1998 but he had been elected sixth time on March 19 last for another term that was to start on April 9. He had also a short stint of two years as elected Member of the Lok Sabha from 1977 to 1979 when Janata Party came to power immediately after the emergency. He had remained in jail for several years from time to time because of his participation in political and religious agitations.

Interestingly, he was never elected to the Punjab Assembly. Head of several other religious, educational and other bodies, Tohra was to turn 80 on September 24 this year. His wife Joginder Kaur is a simple woman who stays back in family home in the village. Known for his honesty, Tohra still owns an ordinary house in the village and small chunk of land that he got as a share from his ancestral property. He did graduation in Punjabi literature from Panjab University, Lahore. He had been preparing to celebrate the 500 birth anniversary of Guru Angad Dev in April and 400th year of Parkash Utsav of Guru Granth Sahib.Back

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