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Akal Takht Indicts Pashaura Singh

According to Virinder Singh Grewal, who has been closely associated with Pashaura Singh's tenure at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, "the then Jathedar Manjit Singh wrote the confession of the doctor himself in Punjabi, and asked him to sign it and read it" (Sikh-Diaspora, Yahoo! Groups, August 9, 2005)., Amritsar, Jun. 27, 1994

Photo: Pashaura Singh

In a historic judgement delivered by Professor Manjit Singh, Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht, the highest spiritual and temporal authority/seat of Sikhs, Pashaura Singh was declared guilty of five charges of blasphemy. Pashaura Singh had made a number of baseless observations in his Ph.D. thesis, 'The Text and Meaning of the Adi Granth,' submitted to the University of Toronto in 1991, to please his supervisor who is well known as an adversary of Sikhism and with an eye on a university job. The unanimous verdict followed a detailed hearing of Pashaura Singh's case in an 8 hour non-stop session of the five high priests presided over by Prof. Manjit Singh at the Akal Takht Sahib on the 25th June 1994.

The judgement says that Pashaura Singh had attacked the authenticity of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which had deeply hurt the sentiments of the Panth. He had also levelled baseless charges against the fourth and the fifth Masters, saying that they had made alterations in the Mul Mantra as well as linguistic and theological changes in the bani of Guru Nanak.

The tankhah (religious punishment) awarded to Pashaura Singh for the offences committed by him, includes dusting of shoes of the sangat, washing of the parkarma [walkway] of Sri Harmandir Sahib, besides listening to kirtan and reciting of Japuji Sahib, over a period of five weeks. At the completion of this penance he has been directed to appear before the sangat at the local gurdwara in Michigan, where he resides, and request the granthi [priest] to pray for his forgiveness. It may still be necessary for him to finally appear before the Akal Takht for forgiveness as is the normal procedure in such matters.

It may be recalled that Pashaura Singh's thesis had attracted sharp criticism from scholars, and incurred indignation and condemnation of the masses for its blasphemous formulations. S.G.P.C., the highest elected religious body of the Sikhs, took cognizance of the offence, and after a thorough scrutiny by two Expert Committees of scholars, referred the matter to Sri Akal Takht Sahib for appropriate action.

The judgement which is reproduced [below], also directs Pashaura Singh not to publish his thesis in the present form. During the hearing Pashaura Singh submitted a confessional statement in which he pleaded guilty to all charges, and undertook to revise his thesis as well as his previous publications in the light of the findings of the present inquiry. We are also reproducing the five charges read out to Pashaura Singh, to which he pleaded guilty. In fact, these represent only a sample of the blasphemous contents of his thesis.

The Judgment

Ik Onkar

Waheguru ji ki Fateh

Sri Akal Takht Sahib

No . . . /217/ /94 Hukmnama Sri Amritsar 27/6/94

Dr. Pashaura Singh,

On summons from Sri Akal Takht Sahib you presented yourself before the Takht on the 25th June, 1994 in connection with your controversial thesis 'The Text and Meaning of the Adi Granth.' After prolonged deliberations in the sacred congregation of Sikh scholars, you have pleaded guilty in writing to the five charges of misrepresentations levelled against you. In this connection you have also pledged to bow your head before every decision of the Takht.

The views expressed in your thesis have caused intense hurt to the sentiments of Sikhs who accept Sri Guru Granth Sahib as their Living Guru. This has been demonstrated by Sikhs in India and abroad through a large number of letters, messages and books, received in the Akal Takht Sahib during the last two years. Such pious sentiments of love towards the Guru, on the part of the Sikh Sangat, have always found expression through the Akal Takht Sahib.

As a Sikh scholar, you were expected to produce literature to promote the welfare of all, with commitment to Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the Guru Panth. But what happened was exactly the opposite of this. Taking cognizance of the overall situation in the Panth, Sri Akal Takht is pleased to issue the following orders for your compliance:

1) You shall not publish this controversial thesis in the present form, nor shall you authorize anyone else to publish it.

2) The charges and the objections relating to doctrines or presentation, raised by Sikh scholars against this thesis, have been pointed out, and accepted by you. Some of these have been given to you in writing. These shall be removed by you in letter and spirit from the thesis. And in case the thesis is to be published in the future, it will be done according to Gurmat with full regard for the sentiments of the Sikh community.

3) In deference to the sentiments of the Guru Panth you shall also not publish any other such objectionable material as produced by you earlier. In the future you shall ever keep in mind the sentiments for the ascendancy of the Panth and salvation of all, and conduct only such research on Gurbani and Sikh history, as would lead to blessings of the Living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the Guru Panth.

Keeping in view the charges in respect of your thesis, the following tankhah [religious punishment] is prescribed for you:

1) In order to seek divine understanding at the portals of the Lord Guru, you shall listen to kirtan at the Darbar Sahib on the 27th and 28th June, 1994 for one hour each day.

2) On these days, for one hour each day, you shall recite the Japuji five times, over and above the nitnem [daily prayer regiment].

3) On the same days in order to seek blessings of the Guru Sangat, you shall join the daily chore of washing the parkarma [walkway] of the Darbar Sahib for one hour each day in the afternoons.

4) In America, where you live, you shall present yourself at the local Gurdwara Sahib; you shall perform the service of dusting the shoes of the sangat for five Sundays. Also for one hour each day you shall listen to gurbani kirtan, as well as recite Japuji five times, besides the nitnem, on each of these days.

At the end, you shall present yourself at the Gurdwara and request the Granthi Sahib to pray for forgiveness/indulgence for you.

(Signed) Kewal Singh, Jathedar, Takht Damadama Sahib

(Signed) Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Sri Akal Takht Sahib

(Signed) Joginder Singh, Granthi, Sri Harmandir Sahib

(Signed) Bhagwan Singh, Head Granthi, Sri Akal Takht Sahib

(Signed) Mohan Singh, Head Granthi, Sri Harmandir Sahib

The Confession

(English translation of confessional statement of Pashaura Singh in Punjabi in Pashaura Singh's own handwriting at Sri Akal Takht, Amritsar on June 25, 1994.)

June 25, 1994

The Five Singh Sahiban, Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Amritsar Sahib

Your Holiness

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa; Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

Under orders from Sri Akal Takht Sahib, appearing at the Takht Sahib, this humble servant pleads guilty to the five charges in respect of my thesis (The Text and Meaning of the Adi Granth), read out as well as given to me in writing. I hereby reject in thought, word and deed all such objectionable formulations that occur in my thesis. I beg forgiveness of the Panth for whatever hurt the conclusions drawn by me in my thesis have caused to the Panth. In future I pledge to serve the Panth as a humble servant of the Panth. I also willingly accept whatever decision is announced by the Singh Sahiban.

(Signed) Pashaura Singh 25/06/1994

The Confession (Original in Gurmukhi/Punjabi)