As the markets around the Golden Temple started reopening after a day-long Punjab bandh on Tuesday evening, the mood at the Akal Takht, the fountainhead of spiritual and temporal authority of Sikhism, appeared clearly reconciliatory inside the holy precincts.
The Akal Takht head priest Jathedar Jogender Singh Vedanti said he was willing to douse the fire if Dera Sachha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh chose the right words in his apology. "Shabd ka hi to saara mamla hai (words are at the root of it all)," he told HT in an exclusive interview inside the Golden Temple complex.
Vedanti refused to comment on the Parkash Singh Badal administration’s anxieties but his close associate, Prathipal Singh Sandhu, said violence would affect everyone adversely, including the Akali Dal-BJP government.
Vedanti clarified that the apology should be addressed to the entire Sikh community and he should say he would not do what he pleases when it comes to Sikhism (manmati naheen karega). It appeared to be a clear climbdown for a religious head who was adamant till Monday evening that he wanted nothing short of immediate closure of Dera branches in Punjab.
Vedanti conceded readily that he has conveyed the words he would like to hear from the Dera chief to a delegation of religious heads, led by Swami Agnivesh, that has been trying to persuade the Dera chief to reword his "regret letter" issued earlier. Other members of the delegation are Jain Muni Lok Prakash Lokesh, Maulana Jamil Ahmed Ilyasi, Maulana Khan Mohammad Hafiz and Father Falyas Parmar.
The Akal Takht chief said he would convene a meeting of other jathedars and issue an appeal for the community's forgiveness as soon as he received the apology.