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Panth Ratan Award conferred on Tohra
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Tohra (Patiala), April 11
Harvesting stopped in this part of Punjab today to allow more than one lakh people to pray for and remember Akali patriarch Gurcharan Singh Tohra at his native village here. People trudged to the huge ‘pandal’ set up in fields on the outskirts of this village on foot, tractor trailers, cars, jeeps and trucks to attend the ‘bhog’ ceremony of the ‘son of the soil’.

It was truly a solemn affair with the Tohra family itself organising the “bhog” ceremony of the late SGPC chief. After the culmination of the “akhand path” at around 10 a.m. “kirtan” was organised for about three hours by prominent ‘ragis’ of the state.

Immediately after the end of the ‘kirtan’, Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti announced the decision to confer the “Panth Ratan” Award on Tohra. A resolution to this effect was read out on the occasion which was followed by slogans of “Bole so nihal, Sat Sri Akal”. The Jathedar said the decision of the Tohra family to follow the Sikh “rehat maryada” (religious code) by disposing off the entire ‘angitha’ (remains following cremation) instead of following the “phul chugna” (collection of bones) ceremony should serve as a lesson for everybody. He appealed to the community to do likewise and not take the ashes of their near and dear ones to Haridwar or Kiratpur Sahib but dispose them off at the nearest source of water.

After this a memento was given to Ms Joginder Kaur, widow of the late SGPC President, on behalf of the SGPC. ‘Siropas’ were also presented to Ms Joginder Kaur by Jathedar Vedanti, Giani Balwant Singh of Damdama Sahib, Jathedar Iqbal Singh of Patna Sahib, Jathedar Rattan Singh of Hazur Sahib, Jathedar Tarlochan Singh of Kesgarh Sahib and Mohan Singh, Head Granthi of Harmandar Sahib.

After the presentation of the ‘siropas’ the scene shifted to the political stage which was set up adjacent to the stage on which the Guru Granth Sahib had been placed. The stage, on which leaders from all political parties were seated, was placed at a lower level. Tohra’s confidant Maheshinder Singh Grewal took over the proceedings following which tributes were paid to the late SGPC chief by politicians from all major parties in the state for more than three hours.

Union Minister Arun Shourie read out a condolence message sent by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Prime Minister in his message said the death of the SGPC chief was a personal loss for him and the country and that Tohra had maintained a fine balance between religion and politics throughout his life. While speaking about a demand asking for the establishment of a Special Institute for Cancer and Heart Diseases in memory of Tohra, he said he would take up the issue with the Prime Minister today itself.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, who was accompanied by a dozen members of the Congress Legislature Party, including six ministers and Pradesh Congress President H.S. Hanspal, said the state government would also take up the issue of establishment of the medical institute. The Chief Minister said he would also take up the issue with the Centre, adding that the state government could also go ahead on its own if the people of Tohra village were ready to give land for the purpose.

The Chief Minister also announced that he would recommend the late SGPC leader’s name for a national honour. He said noted Punjabi academician Dr Balkar Singh had already been entrusted with the responsibility of coming out with a book on Tohra in six months’ time.

SAD president Parkash Singh Badal thanked political leaders from various parties who were present on the occasion. He said Tohra was the only personality in Sikh history who had done unparalleled ‘seva’ in religious, social and political spheres. He also presented a “dastar” (turban) to the late SGPC chief’s son-in-law Harmel Singh Tohra besides expressing his love and respect to the family.

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