M A I N   N E W S

Simple ceremony for man of the masses
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Tohra (Patiala), April 2
Punjabis collected in the thousands, bearing the heat and dust to pay their last tributes to the common man’s “Pardhan”, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, at the cremation ground in this village, which was transformed into a sea of blue today.

Besides the cremation ground, people, especially women, crowded the nearby rooftops to witness the last rites, which were marked by simplicity. The mortal remains of the SGPC chief were brought on a bier from his house to the cremation ground at around noon. Those who shouldered the bier were Tohra’s son-in-law, Mr Harmel Singh Tohra, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, Capt Kanwaljit Singh Mr Harmel Singh’s son Harinderpal, Tohra village sarpanch Satwinder Singh and colleague of the SGPC chief Mohinder Singh.

The common Akali worker was full of emotion and could not be stopped from going up to the specially constructed platform on which the body was laid for cremation. People thronged to the platform and many, including close family friends and supporters, wept openly.

After more than half an hour of “darshan”, wreaths were placed by VIPs present on the occasion. These included Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Union ministers Arun Jaitely, Vinod Khanna and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, former Union minister Omar Abdullah, senior Congress leader Ambika Soni, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleagues, SAD President Parkash Singh Badal, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Paramjit Singh Sarna, Lok Bhalai Party chief Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, Mr Joginder Dayal of the CPI, Mr Balwant Singh of the CPI (M) and Mr Simranjit Singh Mann of the SAD (Amritsar).

After the placing of wreaths, a 21-gun salute was given to the SGPC chief by a Punjab Police contingent. Japji Sahib ‘path’ was done immediately afterwards, following which "ardas" was performed by Giani Puran Singh, Head Granthi of Harmandar Sahib, Amritsar. Then, in the presence of Akal Takht, Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti and other Sikh high priests, Mr Harmel Singh Tohra consigned the mortal remains of the SGPC chief to the flames.

Even as the pyre was being lit, supporters of the SGPC chief reaffirmed their loyalty to him by raising slogans, saying “Tohra teri soch te pahra dayange thok ke (Tohra, we will stand by your principles with resolve)”.

Kirtan was performed after this, following which people departed.

The principles the SGPC chief stood for were observed even after his death. The entire ceremony was marked by its simplicity. No one was allowed to throw any “samagri” on the funeral pyre. Also, the SGPC chief’s ashes will remain in the cremation ground only and would not be collected to be immersed in running water as is the common practice. An announcement was made in this regard, asking people not to gather for this traditional ceremony.

According to Tohra supporters, the SGPC chief felt this ceremony was against the tenets of Sikhism and his followers in the village also did not follow this practice.

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